U.N. climate talks speed Third World investments


  • World
  • Friday, 09 Dec 2005

By Alister Doyle and Mary Milliken

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Negotiators at U.N. climate talks agreed on Thursday to speed investments in clean-energy projects in the Third World as host Canada struggled to enlist the United States in a long-term fight against global warming. 

Negotiators from 160 nations, overcoming an objection by Saudi Arabia, also agreed on a set of rules to ensure compliance with the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol, which obliges many developed nations to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases, 

Stress relievers shaped as penguins, bearing environmental messages, sit on the table for delegates during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal, December 8, 2005. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

"There seems to be a moderately positive mood," British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said of progress at the Nov. 28-Dec. 9 talks. But she warned of a "false euphoria" and said negotiations could drag on into Saturday. 

Negotiators agreed to streamline a plan that might channel $100 billion to projects such as hydropower in Honduras or wind energy in China to help cut the use of fossil fuels blamed for warming the planet. 

A draft decision to go to more than 90 ministers reassured investors the "Clean Development Mechanism," or CDM, would last beyond 2012, when the first phase of Kyoto runs out. The CDM has been hampered by bureaucracy and underfunding. 

Under the CDM, rich nations can invest in clean energy projects, such as generating electricity by burning the waste from sugar cane in Brazil, and claim credits back home for reducing world emissions of greenhouse gases. 

So far, more than 40 such projects have been approved. 

Under the rules approved to ensure Kyoto compliance, any country that overshoots its targets will have to make up the shortfall, and an extra 30 percent penalty, in the next period. 

Saudi Arabia's call that each country's national legislation approve a measure to ensure compliance was dropped on grounds it would have bogged down Kyoto. 

The talks were deadlocked on how to widen a fight against climate change beyond Kyoto, a tiny step in a drive to brake a warming that many scientists say will lead to wrenching changes such as more powerful storms, desertification, extinction of species and rising sea levels. 

DEADLOCK 

Canada circulated a new text suggesting two years of U.N.-led discussions among all countries about new ways to fight global warming after the United States, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, said it was not interested. Washington says emission caps threaten jobs and industry and instead backs voluntary targets. 

Developing nations lined up to say rich countries could not expect the poor to give up burning coal, oil and gas -- all exploited with no limits by rich nations as the locomotives of economic growth since the Industrial Revolution. 

"Calls for developing countries to take up greenhouse abatement commitments in some guise or other are misplaced," Indian Environment Minister Thiru Raja said, saying any brakes on emissions would jeopardize a fight against poverty. 

U.S. President George W. Bush has denounced Kyoto as an economic straitjacket and is promoting big investments in new technologies like hydrogen and a plan to cooperate with China, India, Japan, Australia and South Korea. 

But European Union Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, "Climate change is a global threat that requires a global response." He noted recent opinion polls showed 75 percent of Americans were concerned about climate change. 

Environmentalists urged Kyoto members to agree to deeper cuts and forget Bush. Many Kyoto members worry a pact without Washington from 2012 will sap their economic growth and hand U.S. businesses a competitive advantage. 

"How many ways do they have to say 'No' for people to get it?" Stephen Guilbeault of Greenpeace said of U.S. opposition. 

A group of protesters sang revised versions of hits by former Beatle and peace activist John Lennon on the 25th anniversary of his murder in New York to urge wider action. 

"We all live in a carbon-intensive world," they chanted to the tune of the Beatles hit "Yellow Submarine." 

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