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UN Climate Proposal Paves Way For Rich-Poor Discord

Alex Morales, Bloomberg

The United Nations left open the option for rich and poor nations to remain divided in their obligations on climate change, setting up a conflict over exactly who should cut greenhouse gases.

In a policy paper setting out possible language to include in a global warming agreement envoys from 190 nations are drawing up for next year, the U.N. set out an option for maintaining a divide between developed and developing nations.

Under current rules, industrial nations have targets for reducing fossil fuel emissions while developing countries need only take steps that they volunteer. The United States and European Union want all nations on an equal footing in the next climate deal, which the U.N. intends to conclude next year. Developing nations including China, the biggest polluter, say it’s up to the richer nations to act first.

“It doesn’t resolve the yawning gaps between positions,” Alden Meyer, an observer of the talks for more than two decades at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Tuesday in a phone interview. He said the differences are those over the so-called firewall between industrialized nations and poorer ones, and over climate finance.

The U.S. and European nations say the division was broken down at a round of talks in Durban, South Africa in 2011, where the mandate for the deal was established. China and India have contended that the Durban agreement didn’t change the nature of commitments to be made by developed and developing nations.

The document posted on the website of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change outlines ways to bridge the difference between the two groups in building a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which limits emissions in industrial nations only.

The document is called a non-paper in U.N. jargon, indicating it’s not an official negotiating text. It spells out what the two men chairing the talks, Kishan Kumarsingh of Trinidad and Tobago and the European Commission’s Artur Runge-Metzger, term “elements” of a draft negotiating text.

Those elements, presented as options in some places, contradict each other because they represent opposing interests of rich and poor countries.

Under a section of the document entitled “guiding principles,” one proposal would maintain the divisions enshrined in Kyoto. Another states that “a binary approach is not consistent with the current and evolving situation of the world and cannot be used as the basis for the 2015 agreement.”

“It’s important that everyone feels their vision is incorporated into the text,” said Amal-Lee Amin, Associate Director of E3G, a British non-profit group advocating sustainable development. “What it doesn’t reflect is any sense of convergence.”

The paper also lays out options for developed countries to ramp up annual climate aid to poorer ones to the $US100 billion ($106 billion) level they’ve pledged to reach by 2020. It calls for predictability of finance. Options range from not quantifying individual commitments to doing so based on a formula setting out percentages and agreed by all nations.

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