Kyoto Dispute Threatens Climate Conference

African delegates are back at the climate change talks in Copenhagen after a brief walkout Monday to protest what they said were efforts by rich nations to undermine the current global warming treaty and weaken a new agreement

Lisa Bryant

African negotiators briefly walked out of climate talks in Copenhagen, angered by what they consider efforts to sideline poor nations and weaken support for a binding deal.  The talks have since resumed as delegates race to draft a global agreement at the final week of the climate conference.

African negotiators in Copenhagen expressed dismay at what they said were efforts to water down global-warming talks, saying binding emission reductions targets are essential.  At a morning press conference, they said the interests of poor nations on the front lines of climate change are being ignored.  And they warned against attempts to sideline the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and does set binding reductions targets.

One African negotiator said dismissing the so-called Kyoto track means the death of Africa.

"As you all know, Africa is the most vulnerable continent," one African negotiator said.  "And in this process, the Kyoto Protocol is of paramount importance to us.  In this regard we cannot, repeat, cannot - we can never accept the killing of the Kyoto Protocol."

But poorer nations want richer ones to commit to steeper, binding emissions reductions and provide more aid to adapt to climate change.

Earlier, British Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband outlined some of those problems to reporters.

"Can we get the emissions cuts that we need?  Europe wants to move to 30 percent reduction by 2020, but we need high ambition from others as well, and we will be pushing for that on the basis of our willingness to go to the 30 percent," Miliband said.  "There are issues behind finance, which is how we get beyond the very welcome fast-start commitments that are being made to longer term finance, and that is something we are working on."

Miliband said the third issue centered on ways to report and verify climate-change pledges are actually delivered.  Negotiators are hoping those issues are resolved before world leaders arrive at the week's end to sign a climate agreement.

The European Union last week agreed to earmark $3.6 billion yearly in short-term climate financing between 2010 and 2012 for developing nations.  But other countries have not followed suit.  

Richer nations have not agreed on long-term climate financing for poorer ones.  Experts say more than $100 billion in annual aid will be needed by 2020.

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