China cautions French calls for speedy UN climate pact

Beijing envoy dampens enthusiasm for swift deal on first day of Bonn climate talks, calls for more financial assurances

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius with American counterpart, John Kerry (Flickr/ US State Dept)

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius with American counterpart, John Kerry (Flickr/ US State Dept)

By Alex Pashley

As UN talks restarted in Bonn on Monday, France sought to inject vigour into an anticipated climate pact by calling for a “pre-agreement” to be struck as early as October.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius urged almost 200 nations to broker an early deal that has eluded negotiators for decades, tasking the crunch Paris summit “to add the finishing touches”.

But China’s lead envoy Su Wei soon downplayed the optimism of the incoming conference’s president: “There is very limited time … it is difficult to reach any kind of agreement until the last moment”.

Besides, major stumbling blocks remain over who will provide the $100 billion a year in developed countries have promised poorer nations from 2020, as well as funds to soften climate impacts in the interim, he said.

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“[W]e need necessary support, not just charity of money, but really the legal obligation emanating from historic responsibility that is well established in the [UN climate] process,” Wei said.

The comments of the global top emitter’s chief gives a dose of realism to the two-week conference as China holds the line of developing countries’ demand for greater assistance for the onset of climate change they didn’t cause.

Bonn is another event in a packed year as envoys frantically seek to broker a deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a veteran watcher of climate negotiations called the mood “very positive” with countries displaying “workman-like” attitude.

“People are getting down to business. There is no drama,” Meyer told RTCC.

Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator of the Alliance of Small Islands States bloc said no country opposed a Paris deal and trusted nations would slim the 90-page text to a “manageable” level.

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The Maldivian official leading the group of 44 countries at risk of rising sea levels, said countries must work to limit global warming to 1.5C by the century’s end, as well as setting up a separate natural disaster fund.

“For the people on the ground in the islands, [climate change] is an everyday issue for them. They cannot go on any longer if the world moves beyond 1.5C,” he told RTCC, underlining threats to their tourism-dependent economies.

“Would any tourist come to the Maldives to dive in a graveyard?”



David Waskow at the World Resources Institute laid out three areas of action for the event.

Those were establishing ‘cycles of action’, regular intervals where nations trigger deeper carbon cuts; a long-term goal to get to zero emissions, and ways to spur cash for poor countries to adapt to climate change.

So far just under 40 of about 196 nations have posted their own emission reduction pledges. In October, the UN will collate a spreadsheet, ranking the collective impact on curbing global warming to within the agreed 2c threshold nations and scientists believe will avert dangerous climate change.

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Elina Bardram, the EU climate chief, said it was “high time for a step change in the process”, and said the immediate challenge was getting a “critical mass of contribution from all partners”.

According to a new study by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, 75% of annual emissions are now covered by a range of national targets. China is set to post its intended nationally determined contribution in UN parlance to join major emitters US and China.

Still, these are not deemed stringent enough to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, a ceiling countries agreed to avoid in 2009.

The EU backed a review process tentatively every five years, said Ilze Pruse, Latvia’s head negotiator, demanding deeper cuts at every interval.

Emissions have to fall to net zero some time in the next half of the century to avert catastrophic climate change.

While two weeks of tough bartering in Bonn will not lead to headline agreements usually reserved for heads of states, it will refine the hard political choices to be made, Meyer said.

“The real question is are there some issues where they can resolve differences and narrow sets of options coming onto the table,” he added.

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