U.N. climate conference creates ‘green’ fund

A U.N. climate conference on Saturday approved a deal to create a “green” fund for developing countries and to take other small steps to address global warming, over heated objections from Bolivia that the pact doesn’t go far enough.

A man walks next to Greenpeace activists who form the word hope as a question with their bodies during a demonstration near the site of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun

A man walks next to Greenpeace activists who form the word hope as a question with their bodies during a demonstration near the site of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun

CANCUN, Mexico — A U.N. climate conference on Saturday approved a deal to create a “green” fund for developing countries and to take other small steps to address global warming, over heated objections from Bolivia that the pact doesn’t go far enough.

The agreement in Cancun went a long way to restoring faith in the unwieldy U.N. process after the letdown a year ago at a much-anticipated summit in Copenhagen, though an overarching accord to slash global emission is being deferred another year.

The new agreement creates “building blocks” for a new global pact and, unexpectedly, gives recognition to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrial countries by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels within the next 10 years. Current pledges amount to about 16 per cent.

Debate on a larger pact was deferred to the 2011 conference in Durban, South Africa.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, the conference president, gaveled the two-part deal early Saturday over the objections of Bolivia. Decisions at the U.N. climate talks are typically made by consensus, but Espinosa said consensus doesn’t “mean that one country has the right to veto” decisions supported by everyone else.

The accord establishes a multibillion dollar annual Green Climate Fund to help developing countries cope with climate change, though it doesn’t say how the fund’s money is to be raised.

It also sets rules for internationally funded forest conservation, and provides for climate-friendly technology to expanding economies.

Espinosa won repeated standing ovations from a packed conference hall for her deft handling of bickering countries and for drafting an acceptable deal — though it fully satisfied no one.

Country after country praised the document, though flawed, as the best available deal. But Bolivia’s chief delegate Pablo Solon refused to go along with the package, arguing it was dangerous because it was too weak to stop rising temperatures.

“Bolivia has clearly stated that it does not agree with this document and there is no consensus,” Solon said.

The draft Cancun deal finesses disputes between industrial and developing countries on future emissions cuts and incorporates voluntary reduction pledges attached to the Copenhagen Accord that emerged from last year’s climate summit in the Danish capital.

The draft strikes a skilful compromise between the U.S. and China, which had been at loggerheads throughout the two week conclave on methods for monitoring and verifying actions to curtail greenhouse gases.

“What we have now is a text that, while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward,” said chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern. His Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, sounded a similar note and added, “The negotiations in the future will continue to be difficult.”

The accord “goes beyond what we expected when we came here,” said Wendel Trio of the Greenpeace environmental group.

Underscoring what’s at stake in the long-running climate talks, NASA reported that the January-November 2010 global temperatures were the warmest in the 131-year record.

Its data indicated the year would likely end as the warmest on record, or tied with 2005 as the warmest.

Solon protested that the weak pledges condemned the Earth to temperature increases of up to 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 F), which was tantamount to “ecocide” that could cost millions of lives.

He also complained that the text was being railroaded over his protests.

In the 1992 U.N. climate treaty, the world’s nations promised to do their best to rein in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases emitted by industry, transportation and agriculture. In the two decades since, the annual conferences’ only big advance came in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, when parties agreed on modest mandatory reductions by richer nations.

But the U.S., alone in the industrial world, rejected the Kyoto Protocol, complaining it would hurt its economy and that such emerging economies as China and India should have taken on emissions obligations.

Since then China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s biggest emitter, but it has resisted calls that it assume legally binding commitments — not to lower its emissions, but to restrain their growth.

Here at Cancun such issues came to a head, as Japan and Russia fought pressure to acknowledge in a final decision that they will commit to a second period of emissions reductions under Kyoto, whose current targets expire in 2012.

The Japanese complained that with the rise of China, India, Brazil and others, the 37 Kyoto industrial nations now account for only 27 per cent of global greenhouse emissions. They want a new, legally binding pact obligating the U.S., China and other major emitters.

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