Oslo: More than 150 nations meet in Ghana from Thursday trying to speed up sluggish talks on a new climate treaty and plug big gaps in a “vision” of industrial nations towards halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The 21-27 August meeting of 1,000 delegates will also consider ways to combat global warming such as slowing tropical deforestation—UN studies say burning of trees accounts for about 20% of greenhouse gases from human activities.
“While progress has been made, there is no doubt that we need to move forward quickly,” Yvo de Boer, head of the UN climate change secretariat, said in a statement.
The Accra meeting will be the third since governments agreed last year to negotiate a new climate treaty by the end of 2009 to avert threats such as heatwaves, rising sea levels, disruption of monsoons, desertification and flooding.
Slowing economic growth in many nations, the collapse of world trade talks in July and uncertainties about the US policy after President George W. Bush leaves office in January means many countries are wary of showing their hands.
“The political process has suffered major delays and is far from where it should be,” the WWF conservation group said.
The talks will be a first chance to ease tensions between rich and poor nations after leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations agreed at a summit in Japan last month on a “vision” of halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Developing nations, including China and India, refused to sign up any 2050 goal in talks with G-8 leaders, saying rich countries had burnt most fossil fuel since the Industrial Revolution and should first set tougher cuts for themselves.
“I don’t see that (2050 goal) as very helpful...since it’s so far away,” said Harald Dovland, a Norwegian official who will preside in Accra over talks by nations that support the current UN Kyoto Protocol for curbing emissions until 2012.
“A 2050 signal is okay but doesn’t give us a real basis for agreeing” on needed short-term targets, he said. Most of today’s politicians will be dead or have retired by 2050.
Many want a UN treaty to set 2020 goals to guide investors—for instance, trying to decide whether to build a coal-fired power plant or put cash into solar or wind power.
One strategy to ease disputes between rich and poor is to offer developing nations credits for curbing deforestation.