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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    December 2010

Cancun climate talks to fail

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told world environment ministers on Tuesday he is "deeply concerned" that many years of negotiation have proven largely fruitless.

"The pace of human-induced climate change is accelerating. We need results now, results that curb global greenhouse emissions," Ban declared at the opening of high-level talks at the annual U.N. climate conference.

In the two-week session's final days, environment ministers will seek agreement on knotty side issues in coping with global warming, but once more the U.N. climate treaty's 193 parties will fail at Cancun to produce a sweeping deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions and control climate change.

"I am deeply concerned that our efforts so far have been insufficient," the U.N. chief told delegates.

"Nature will not wait while we negotiate," he said. "Science warns that the window of opportunity to prevent uncontrolled climate change will soon close."

U.N. environment chief, Achim Steiner, reminded the conference that countries' current, voluntary pledges to reduce emissions would, at best, offer the world limited protection against serious damage from shifts in climate.

Another reminder came from the mountains of south Asia: In a new report, experts said people's lives and livelihoods are at "high risk" as warming melts Himalayan glaciers, sending floods crashing down from overloaded mountain lakes and depriving farmers of steady water sources.

Low-lying Pacific island states, in particular, are losing shoreline to rising seas, expanding from heat and the runoff of melting land ice. Following Ban to the podium, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru, one of those states, said the reality of climate change has been lost in scientific, economic and technical jargon.

"Without bold action, it will be left to our children to come up with the words to convey the tragedy of losing our homelands when it didn't have to be this way," he said.

Despite such evidence of growing impacts, and scientists' warnings that temperatures will rise sharply in this century, nations have made little progress over the past decade toward a new global pact on emissions cuts to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Republican rebound in Washington promises to delay action even further.

Instead, environment ministers will focus on secondary tools for confronting global warming, laying the groundwork, for example, for a "green fund" of $100 billion a year by 2020.

Financed by richer nations, the fund would support poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate that may damage people's health, agriculture and economies in general.

Negotiators also hope to agree on a mechanism giving poorer countries' easier access to the patented green technology of advanced countries, and on pinning down more elements of a complex plan to compensate developing nations for protecting their climate-friendly forests.

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