The United Nations global warming talks have been set back by six months after Russia and its allies blocked progress at a group charged with implementing decisions of the 190 nations involved in the discussions.
The Subsidiary Body for Implementation at the UN talks failed to complete any work at two weeks of meetings in Bonn that finished today because Russia, Ukraine and Belarus objected to the group’s agenda.
The delay means envoys will have to redouble efforts when they meet in November in Warsaw, and some decisions may be delayed until 2014, said Quamrul Chowdury, the lead negotiator for the Least Developed Countries group of nations. The talks are aiming to adopt a treaty in 2015 that would limit fossil fuel emissions blamed for damaging the climate.
“Practically speaking we have lost six months,” Chowdury said in an interview. The Warsaw conference will have to address the SBI’s agenda from Bonn well as its own, he said. “There is a danger some items will have to be forwarded to next year.”
The negotiations sponsored by the UN are seeking to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gas pollution from industrial nations. Officials meeting in Bonn were supposed to draft decisions and decide on further actions that are formally approved by the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the end of the year.
At the Bonn meeting, work under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, or SBI, failed to address any items since June 3, when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus blocked the agenda. The three nations want the SBI to include in its agenda a formal discussion of meeting procedures, which have never been agreed.
Russia, Belarus and Ukraine objected to the conclusion of the last UN climate meeting in Doha. They were upset about the body’s decision to restrict their ability to sell surplus Kyoto permits in the eight years to 2020.
Regardless of the holdup, nations have had “very good informal exchanges” on many SBI agenda items, said Jurgen Lefevere, deputy head of the EU delegation.
“Issues raised by Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have to be discussed,” Lefevere told reporters today. “We will use the time between Bonn and Warsaw to address the issues so that we have no blockage when the Warsaw COP starts.”
The SBI meeting had been due to discuss issues such as a review of rules governing UN carbon offset projects and plans to address loss and damages resulting from the effects of climate change. The loss-and-damage proposal championed by small island nations would channel cash from richer nations to developing ones hit hardest by climate change.
Christiana Figueres, the top UN climate official, said she’s “confident” that governments will find a solution between now and the summit in Poland. Negotiators gathering in Warsaw can make up for lost time and “do the work of three weeks in one,” she told reporters today. The delay in the SBI hasn’t stopped progress in the rest of the meeting, she said.
The SBI is one of the three main bodies working at the UN talks. The two others are working on rules and guidelines for the post-2020 deal, and they made progress in Bonn, Figueres said.
“Governments are moving faster now from the stage of exploring options to designing and implementing solutions,” Figueres said in a statement.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said that while she was glad to see support for the proposal by the 27-nation bloc proposal to reduce HFCs, which are industrial gases more potent than carbon in harming the atmosphere, she remained concerned that many “major negotiating partners do not yet seem ready to engage beyond restating positions of principle.”
“While the outcomes of these negotiations are good news, the last two weeks illustrate with all possible clarity that a lot more work will be needed to get solid results from COP 19 in Warsaw in November,” Hedegaard said in a statement in Brussels.
After appeals this week from the U.S., the European Union, China and India, the three still refused to accept a compromise. Tomasz Chruszczow, SBI chairman, closed the session on June 11. Talks will resume under Polish guidance in Warsaw Nov. 22.
Editors: Lars Paulsson, Reed Landberg, Tony Barrett