New strategy to boost flagging climate talks

Bonn (AFP) - As a December deadline looms, diplomats wrangling over the text of a climate rescue pact kicked the can further down the road Friday, frustrated at their own lack of progress.

On the final day of a crucial negotiating round in Bonn, delegates turned to the joint chairmen of the UN forum for help in editing the unwieldy blueprint into a more manageable format.

The duo, Algeria's Ahmed Djoghlaf and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States, promised to have a streamlined version ready in time for the next round of Bonn talks from October 19-23.

Crucially, these will be the final five days of official negotiations to prepare for the much-anticipated November 30-December 11 Paris conference tasked with sealing the long-sought universal climate deal.

"We have only 1,800 minutes to agree on the draft package for Paris," Djoghlaf said. "Every minute has value."

The pair also announced that a dedicated "drafting committee" will be created to start work as soon as negotiators reassemble.

As it stands, the text is an 83-page tome with contradictory country proposals on how to deal with the global warming threat.

Diplomats lamented the "snail's pace" of this week's five-day haggle, accusing one another of rehashing well-rehearsed positions and holding up the real work of point-by-point text bartering.

"We see very senior, experienced negotiators very frustrated because they are itching to get to the line-by-line negotiations, which we very much need to take place before we get to Paris," European negotiator Elina Bardram told AFP.

- No time for chit chat -

It is time for "direct, inclusive, and interactive negotiations" added Gurdial Singh Nijar, a Malaysian negotiator and spokesman for the Like Minded Developing Nations bloc, which includes China, India, and many African, South American, Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

"The time for talking about concepts and general chit chat is over," he added.

The Paris agreement is meant to slow the march of dangerous global warming by slashing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from mankind's unbridled burning of fossil fuels.

The overarching goal is to limit average warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

But there are fundamental disagreements on how to share out carbon-emissions cuts between rich nations, which have polluted for longer, and emerging giants such as China and India powering fast-growing economies and populations.

Poor nations are also looking to developed-country partners for commitments of financial and technological aid for their shift to greener energy, and adapting to a new world disfigured by climate change.

"The issues are very complicated," said Reifsnyder, who promised that the new text would "be a better basis for parties to go forward, see the issues from end to end, and negotiate on the substance in detail".

Climate envoy Laurence Tubiana of France was hopeful the chairmen's intervention would yield "a clear, global picture".

"I'm very happy that... the milestones are very clear, we know where we are going by October and the text will be the base where we can engage in full negotiating mode."

- High stakes -

The Paris conference will open in the presence of heads of state who will be keen to avoid a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen conference, which tried and failed to produce a universal climate deal.

There are high hopes that a string of climate-themed meetings of ministers and heads of state in the coming months will give a political boost to the bureaucratic UN process, which has been bogged down in fights over procedure and ideology for years.

Negotiators made piecemeal progress this week on some of the conceptual issues of how responsibility can be shared between nations -- but participants and observers said the overall objective of a universal deal remained far off.

"Heads of state who care about their children should be angry with their negotiators," Greenpeace climate policy director Martin Kaiser said of the Bonn outcome.

"If they want to rescue a meaningful agreement for Paris they must pack bold decisions into their bags when they head to New York for the UN Sustainable Development Summit later this month" -- where leaders will meet on climate.

A timely reminder of the urgency came on Wednesday, with scientists warning the world was on track for warming of three degrees Celsius, a sure recipe for catastrophic storms, droughts, disease spread, water shortages, and sea level rise.

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