UN climate talks run into overtime
UN global warming talks seemed set to spill over into the weekend as negotiators bickered night over the content of climate action plans that countries should unveil in the run-up to a key summit in Paris next year.
The yearly UN climate meetings rarely close on time and the two-week session in Lima was no exception as disputes that arose in the opening days remained unresolved by yesterday's scheduled close of the conference.
"This will not be over today," Chinese delegate Zhang Jiutian said. "There are still some points in the agenda that need more discussion."
One of the most problematic issues in Lima was getting the more than 190 countries participating to agree on what information should go into the pledges that governments are supposed to put on the table for a global climate pact expected to be adopted a year from now in Paris.
Rich countries insisted the pledges should focus on efforts to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases and were resisting demands that they include promises of financing to help poor countries absorb the effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process so the pledges can be compared against one another before Paris. Their reluctance angered some delegates from countries on the front lines of climate change.
"We are shocked that some of our colleagues would want to avoid a process to hold their proposed targets up to the light," said Tony de Brum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, a Pacific nation of low-lying atolls at risk of being flooded by rising seas.
Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the UN 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, US 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 UN's scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about one trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming. It has already spent about 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.