A key panel at UN climate talks in Bonn went into deep freeze on Tuesday as Russia ignored pleas to end a procedural protest, according to a webcast of the meeting and sources there.
Supported by Belarus and Ukraine, Russia refused to let work start in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), an important technical committee in the climate talks, more than a week after the 12-day negotiations began.
Observers said if the three countries did not back down, the future of the entire UN process to fight greenhouse-gas emissions would be at risk.
“It’s a most unfortunate situation,” said Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as delegates admitted the panel will most likely have achieved nothing by Friday’s close.
The Russians are incensed by what happened at the UNFCCC’s last big annual meeting, held in Doha, Qatar, last December.
They complain they were ignored by the conference’s Qatari chairman, who gavelled through a deal that extended the Kyoto Protocol.
The decision at Doha hamstrung Moscow’s planned sale of 5.8 billion tonnes of carbon credits that Russia had amassed under the first round of the Kyoto Protocol.
It had gained these credits not through emissions reductions efforts, but after market pressure forced the closure of CO2-spewing factories following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Facing pleas and ill-disguised criticism from other delegates, Russian chief negotiator Oleg Shamonov on Tuesday said his country would not back down over what it felt was a matter of principle.
“This is a country-driven process… emotions must be set aside,” he said.
Arguing for transparency in UN decision-making, he said, “Our intention is to bring the process from behind the looking glass.”
Other countries expressed sympathy with Russia’s argument but with the exception of its two allies, none backed its tactics and several voiced frustration.