Eleventh-hour scramble to draw up climate talks plan

Bonn (AFP) - UN diplomats scrambled Friday to sew up a draft plan for tackling the urgent challenge of global warming, with just hours of negotiating time left ahead of a crucial summit in Paris.

On the closing day of technical talks in Bonn, which opened on Monday, rich and developing nations were still bickering about the fundamental planks of the pact which will determine the scale of greenhouse gas cuts, and who should foot the bill.

The Bonn round was meant to come up with a clear and concise blueprint for a 195-nation agreement to be inked at a November 30-December 11 conference in Paris.

The document is intended as a framework for political compromises to be thrashed out at the level of ministers and heads of state.

But instead of line-by-line negotiations for a consensus text, climate envoys wound up spending most of the week arguing about procedure and protocol.

"Process-wise it's a nightmare," political analyst Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace International told AFP.

Representing the G77 group of more than 130 developing nations, South Africa's climate negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko expressed the bloc's "profound dissatisfaction" with the week's work.

"G77 and China will not be sidelined," she told a stocktaking session, just days after accusing rich nations of "apartheid" tactics and dropping developing nation demands from the draft.

Developing countries say rich nations must lead the way in slashing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, as they are responsible for historic pollution.

And they want assurances of financing to help them decarbonise their economies and shore up defences against impacts.

But industrialised nations balk at being saddled with a higher burden of responsibility, pointing the finger to emerging economies spewing carbon dioxide as they burn coal to power expanding populations and economies.

It is "unfortunate to see some countries reverting to very rigid and somewhat outdated rhetoric that divides the world in developed and developing countries," said Elina Bardram, top climate negotiator for the European Commission.

The Paris pact would be the first to unite all the world's nations in a single arena for climate action.

- Bargaining chips -

But after more than two decades of negotiations, Bardram said, it still boils down to one fundamental disagreement: "How do you divide responsibilities between developed and developing countries?"

As negotiators quarrelled, US scientists reported Thursday that the first nine months of 2015 had been the warmest on record worldwide.

Voluntary national pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions have gone part of the way towards the UN goal of capping warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the mid-19th century benchmark.

But how to fill the remaining "emissions gap" remains highly contentious.

The week got off to a bad start when countries balked at a slimmed down draft prepared by the forum's co-facilitators, one from Algeria and the other from the United States.

Reinserting excised proposals delayed the process "for several days if not the entire week," said Kaiser.

"It seems like nothing has changed to the kind of way to operate in previous years. It seems that... parties still hold back their bargaining chips until probably the second week of Paris."