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Surprise, Surprise: UN Climate Talks Fail To Break Deadlock

Pilita Clark, Financial Times

Talks aimed at smoothing the way for the first new global climate change accord in 18 years were heading towards stalemate on Friday after a week of bitter squabbles over a draft of the UN agreement.

Five days of preparatory negotiations in the German city of Bonn scheduled to end on Friday were supposed to be the last chance for countries to clarify their positions before a two-week UN meeting in Paris in December that is due to finalise the deal.

But the negotiations began running into overtime on Friday, in a jarring reminder of the difficulties lying ahead of the French meeting.

“This is not where we need to be so close to the Paris conference,” said Australia’s climate envoy, Peter Woolcott, as delegates began calling for extra negotiating days to improve a draft text that ballooned from 20 to 55 pages during the week.

The shadow of the last big effort to seal a global climate deal, in Copenhagen in 2009, hung heavily over the Bonn negotiations.

“I’ve seen this movie before,” said Venezuelan envoy, Claudia Salerno, as the talks bogged down in acrimonious procedural debates late on Thursday.

“I hope this is not going to be a really, really nasty second Copenhagen,” she said.

Deep divisions between rich and poor countries that have dogged decades of UN climate talks, as well as the Copenhagen meeting, were again at the centre of the disputes in Bonn.

Poor countries insist wealthy countries should take on most of the burden for cutting the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change because they caused the problem in the first place.

But the initial draft text ignored the views of poorer countries so much it felt “just like apartheid”, said Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa’s delegate, who speaks on behalf of a group of more than 130 developing nations and China.

The draft’s failure to include more detailed measures to help poor nations deal with the loss and damage caused by global warming — a step wealthy countries are fiercely resisting — was “the equivalent of climate denial”, said Juan Hoffmaister of Bolivia.

But many of the disputes in Bonn have centred on cash.

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