U.N. climate talks make shaky start to year as procedures questioned

Reuters
A general view of King Talal Dam near Jerash
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A general view of King Talal Dam near Jerash March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

BONN (Reuters) - U.N. climate negotiations resumed on a shaky footing on Monday as some delegates questioned how the meeting was being run amid calls for more urgency at the talks, which after two years have made scant progress towards a global climate change deal.

Diplomats from almost 200 nations gathered in Bonn, Germany, vowed to speed up work towards agreeing a 2015 pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions that U.N.-backed scientists say is causing extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

The preliminary talks are the first of a series this year aimed at working out the main elements of an agreement to bind all nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 and raise funds to tackle climate change across the developing world.

But in a sign of trouble in negotiations that have made tortuous progress over two decades, Monday's talks were peppered with procedural concerns.

"The challenge is ... to shift from an informal mode of work to a formal, transparent and participatory negotiating process... The time for that is now," said Naderev Sano of the Philippines, speaking on behalf of a negotiating group of developing countries that includes India, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

He was referring to the system of "open ended" consultations held over the past two years of talks rather than a more formal drafting of texts in smaller groups.

Artur Runge-Metzger, a German diplomat co-chairing the negotiations, insisted the process was moving forward.

"We have clear deadlines and are working diligently to meet those deadlines," he said.

Delegates agreed last year that a new global deal, due to be struck in Paris in 2015 and to enter into force from 2020, would be made up of what they called "intended nationally determined contributions" from both rich and poor nations.

The European Union said parties needed to agree by the year-end a list of elements that all nations must include in these contributions to allow each country to submit them by the first quarter of next year.

The two biggest emitters, the United States and China, have pledged to work closely together on the process but appeared at odds in their formal submissions ahead of the meeting.

The United States has insisted the agreement should break down a barrier under a previous agreement that placed different burdens on developed and developing nations to reduce emissions.

In its submission, China reminded developed nations of their responsibilities under the UNFCCC to "take the lead" on emission cuts and demanded they set deeper 2020 reduction targets by as soon as April.

"Talks here must not lead to a re-writing of the Convention," said Rene Orellana of Bolivia, which is chairing the G77 negotiating group of developing countries.

(Reporting by Ben Garside)

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