Optimism fading for Poland climate talks
Hopes of laying a solid foundation for a post-Kyoto climate pact in 2009 are diminishing, as representatives from 189 nations gathered in Poznań, Poland, squabble over financing methods.
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Another Reuters story notes that the Chinese government, which is proposing that industrialized countries give 1 percent of their national wealth annually to help poor countries with adaptation and clean-energy development, is accusing rich countries of planning "a great escape" out of committing to specific emissions targets by dragging their feet in climate talks.
A divided Europe
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The rift between rich and poor states is even playing out within the EU, which is holding its own climate talks this week in Brussels. As the Guardian notes, poorer countries in the east are asking for subsidies to help them develop clean technologies, which would be paid for by auctioning off permits that allow firms to produce a certain amount of greenhouse emissions. But western European countries, led by Germany, fear that requiring polluters to pay will endanger jobs.
The EU has long been in the forefront of drafting ambitious climate legislation, but some say that the 27-member union could cede this trail-blazing status if it fails to reach an agreement, with disastrous results for the planet. Agence France-Presse quotes two such observers:
No silver bullets
Adding to the deepening pessimism in Poznań is a new survey showing a waning belief that alternative energy can avert catastrophic climate change. As reported in the Guardian, the survey, which was given to 1,000 senior government officials, heads of advocacy groups, and business executives in 115 countries, found drops in support for wind, solar, hydrogen, and biofuels as compared to last year.
Delegates in Poznań have also dropped plans to support technology in the developing world that captures carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and stores them underground. Such "carbon capture and sequestration" technology has not yet been demonstrated on a large scale, but is crucial if poor countries are to continue burning coal without wrecking the climate. As the Wall Street Journal's eco-blogger, Keith Johnson, points out:
US in transition
Also hampering progress on the talks is the US's current political limbo. America is officially being represented by the soon-to-be-departed Bush administration, which has consistently rejected mandatory emissions caps. President-elect Barack Obama is not attending, despite pleas from environmentalists that he do so, although senators John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar (D) of Minnesota – both early Obama supporters – are part of the US delegation.
A kick in the pants
United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon has shown frustration with the delegates, telling the BBC that the world is going through "unprecedented multiple crises starting from global financial crisis, food crisis, and also climate-change crisis":