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Dec 14, 2014 12:41 AM

Peru seeks to unblock snarled UN climate talks

The Associated Press

LIMA, Peru (AP) Negotiators struggled to unblock U.N. climate talks early Sunday after developing countries rejected a draft deal they said would allow rich countries to shirk their responsibilities to fight global warming and pay for its impacts.

Peru's environment minister presented a new, fourth draft just before midnight and said he hoped it would satisfy all parties, giving a sharply reduced body of remaining delegates an hour to review it.

"As a text it's not perfect but it includes the positions of the parties," said the minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who is conference chair and had spent all afternoon and evening meeting separately with delegations.

The main goal for the two-week session in Lima was relatively modest: Reach agreement on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for a global climate pact expected to be adopted next year in Paris.

But even that became complicated as several developing nations rebelled against a draft decision they said blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

The new draft was designed to alleviate that concern.

U.S. representative Todd Stern had said earlier that he was open to tweaking the language if it meant avoiding "a serious breakdown" that could put the Paris agreement at risk and that's what Pulgar-Vidal hoped to do by restoring text demanded by countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The momentum from last month's joint U.S.-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly in Lima as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming.

Developed countries want the pledges to focus on emissions cuts, while developing nations also want to see commitments of financial support.

The latest draft restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a "loss and damage" mechanism agreed upon in last year's talks in Poland.

"We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world," Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

Meanwhile, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

The new draft mentioned only that all pledges would be reviewed a month ahead Paris to assess their combined effect on climate change.

The new draft also watered down language on the content of the pledges, saying they "may" instead of "shall" include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.

By the time Pulgar-Vidal presented the latest draft, many delegates had left, including environment ministers who were the most senior members of negotiation teams.

Bolivian chief negotiator Rene Orellana said most African delegates had left the conference, and that he, too, had a plane to catch before dawn Sunday.

Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the U.N. talks reflect the wider issue of how to divide the burden of fixing the planetary warming that scientists say results from human activity, primarily the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Historically, Western nations are the biggest emitters. Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries as they grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty.

During a brief stop in Lima on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said fixing the problem was "everyone's responsibility, because it's the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country's share."

According to the U.N.'s scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming. It already has spent more than half of that carbon budget as emissions continue to rise, driven by growth in China and other emerging economies.

Scientific reports say climate impacts are already happening and include rising sea levels, intensifying heat waves and shifts in weather patterns causing floods in some areas and droughts in others.

The U.N. weather agency said last week that 2014 could become the hottest year on record.


Associated Press writers Frank Bajak and Nestor Ikeda contributed to this report.


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