U.N. Recommends Small Steps on Climate

Aug 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Adaptation, CLIMATE SCIENCE, Financing, International Agencies, Learning, Mitigation

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said Monday that he doubted that member states would reach a new global climate change agreement in December at a conference in Mexico.

Mr. Ban, who was the head cheerleader for reaching a deal during the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, suggested that a better approach might consist of small steps in separate fields that built toward wider consensus rather than aiming for one sweeping pact. “Climate change, I think, has been making progress, even though we have not reached such a point where we will have a globally agreed, comprehensive deal,” Mr. Ban said at a news conference.

Preliminary negotiations toward some manner of document, involving all 192 member states, ended last week stuck on familiar problems — the working document doubling in size to 34 pages amid protracted wrangling over issues like commitments to cut emissions. There is one more round of talks, in China in October, before the December conference in Cancún. Mr. Ban said he thought there was progress on a limited number of issues, including deforestation, sharing of technology and financial payments to poorer nations from the developed world to help them overcome the effects of climate change.

Experts noted that leaders were working to temper expectations since the overblown promises before Copenhagen nearly ended in a fiasco — with no binding agreement at the end. “That is the recognition of the reality,” said Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations. “They are saying, don’t expect the plan to save the world to be written at a conference.” At Copenhagen, developed nations pledged to provide $30 billion in financing by 2012 to help poorer nations solve the problems caused by climate change, with a total $100 billion by 2020.

Mr. Ban said he had recently written to the leaders of all major developed countries, urging them to come up with the money. Even the smaller sum has yet to materialize, although a committee led by Ethiopia and Norway is supposed to propose payment solutions by October. Like last year, negotiations are plagued by the fact that while most large polluters, particularly the United States and China, have made domestic commitments to the idea of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, they are leery about any binding international formula. A new climate bill has stalled in Congress.

Mr. Ban also announced a new 21-member advisory panel on long-term sustainable development to be led by Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is also on the panel.

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