01
Feb
08

Climate change meeting marked by skepticism

Honolulu (ANTARA News/Xinhua) – Amid skepticism, representatives from the world`s major economies continued discussions on reducing emissions linked to global warming behind closed doors here Thursday.

About 160 people representing 16 countries, the United Nations and the European Union are attending the “Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change,” the second in a series of talks initiated last year by U.S. President George W. Bush.

The talks were “constructive” but differences remained, said an EU representative who emerged from the talks. He refused to give details or to be named.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration launched the talks in a bid to advance United Nations climate change negotiations.

Some European nations as well as environmentalists have accused the Bush administration of using the major economies talks to subvert U.N. negotiations to address climate change.

The major economies meeting followed a United Nations-sponsored conference in Bali, Indonesia, which resulted in a “road map” for a two-year negotiating process to create a formal climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol requires industrial nations to make cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush has complained that the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States has not signed, would unduly damage the U.S. economy and that it did not include developing nations like China and India.

Boyden Gray, U.S. special envoy to the European Union, said the series of “major economies” meetings is intended to accelerate action on some of the items that have been negotiated as part of the Bali road map. He described the group of “major economies” at this meeting as a subcommittee of the 190 or so countries involved in the U.N. process.

“If the past is any guide, it`s very difficult to negotiate details with 190 parties, and one of the points of this is to try to pull the biggest emitters aside as a subcommittee to try to advance some principles to feed into the U.N. process as a whole,” he said.

“If the past is any guide, it`s very difficult to negotiate details with 190 parties, and one of the points of this is to try to pull the biggest emitters aside as a subcommittee to try to advance some principles to feed into the U.N. process as a whole,” he said, apparently trying to playdown expectations for the meeting.

But the U.N. desperately wanted the talks to bear fruit. “There is no time left that the world can lose,” said de Boer, who represented the United Nations at the meeting.

“To face the climate change challenge, there is a need for radical changes in the world economic future, but this clearly involves changes that imply plenty of opportunities,” de Boer told the delegates.

“It`s important to bear in mind that the most vulnerable communities in the poorest countries, those who have contributed nothing to climate change, will be the worst affected by its impact.”

“All efforts now have to focus on getting the negotiations on the climate change deal off the ground to be ready by 2009,” said de Boer.

As the meeting was underway, environmentalist groups were trying to make their voice heard.

Kat Brady, assistant executive director of local environmental group Life of the Land, was skeptical that progress would be made at the meeting.

“I don`t know what they`re going to accomplish in there,” she told Xinhua in an interview.

Chuck Burrows, an eco-justice activist with the Church of the Crossroads, said, “We would like the United States to take the leadership, as they neglected to do in the Bali conference, to take more aggressive and more drastic, immediate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. … We`re here to encourage these other countries` delegates to persuade the U.S. delegation to do that.” (*)


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