Little progress seen at UN climate change talks

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Experts say climate talks have been stymied by national self-interest

A flooded portion of Ho Chi Minh Highway in the central province of Quang Binh.

A consensus on greenhouse gas reduction remains an elusive hurdle in the race to curb global warming and help countries cope with the potentially devastating environment impacts of climate change, experts said.

Delegates from more than 170 countries are meeting in China in an effort to end the gridlock that has plagued United Nations climate negotiations since the failure of world leaders to achieve a binding agreement at last year's summit in Copenhagen.

Koos Neefjes, Climate Change Advisor to the United Nations Development Program, said that this is the last talk before a major UN climate change summit which will begin, this November, in Cancun, Mexico.

"The China Climate Change Conference is one important step in 2010 to help the world get closer to a comprehensive agreement in implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change," he told Thanh Nien Weekly via e-mail.

Neefjes said some progress has been made on climate change adaptation, technology development and on international financing of climate change responses at the ongoing conference in China.

"But there is no clear agreement yet on greenhouse gas reduction by developed countries or on the role that developing countries should play in mitigating their growing emissions. Whether sufficient progress can be made here in Tianjin is still doubtful," he said.

Neefjes further indicated that a failure to make headway at the China conference would translate to a virtual stalemate at the upcoming meeting in Mexico.

"The differences lie in how much emissions reduction must be agreed on the basis of scientific analysis, and how much the Parties feel they can legally agree without damaging their own economic and social development," he said.

The eventual goal of the UN process is to secure a treaty before 2012 that limits global warming and helps countries cope with the potentially devastating environmental impacts of climate change.

Progress at the China talks has been stymied by the diplomatic gridlock created during negotiations at the Copenhagen summit, last year.

Chief US negotiator Jonathan Pershing said time was running out on the set of agreements.

"There is less agreement than one might have hoped at this stage," AFP quoted Pershing as saying on Wednesday. "It's going to require a lot of work to get to some significant outcome by the end of this week, which would lead us into a significant outcome in Cancun."

Given the mounting obstacles to a significant climate change agreement, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Danish think tank Copenhagen Consensus Center and author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," says he's hoping for a return to the proverbial drawing board.

"Unfortunately, just like last December's climate summit in Copenhagen and all the other climate summits going back to Rio in 1992, I expect very little good to come out of the UN Climate Change Conference in China," he told Thanh Nien Weekly via email. "My hope is that the lack of constructive action will get us thinking about smarter ways to move forward on climate change."

Lomborg attributes the enormous costs of cutting carbon emissions before alternative energy technologies are ready to the lack of progress at the Copenhagen summit.

"This is why neither developing nor developed countries are willing to sign a binding agreement on climate. The only solution is for us to adopt a different strategy for solving global warming," he wrote.

"I think China is saying what Vietnam and most other developing nations are saying "” cutting carbon emissions would stifle our economic growth and condemn our people to continued poverty. This is why all the nations of the world should be focusing on developing green energy technologies it's a way to solve global warming without stopping growth."

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