UN climate talks risk collapse as China clashes with US

Members of representative commissions of the countries participating in the climate change conferences, attend the seventh plenary meeting of the COP20 on Dec 13, 2014 in Lima, as they continue working on a final document draft. -- PHOTO: AFP
Members of representative commissions of the countries participating in the climate change conferences, attend the seventh plenary meeting of the COP20 on Dec 13, 2014 in Lima, as they continue working on a final document draft. -- PHOTO: AFP

LIMA (REUTERS) - UN talks on slowing climate change were threatened with collapse on Saturday after China clashed with the United States and led emerging nations to reject a compromise outline of an agreement.

With talks already in overtime because of deadlock after the Dec 1-12 meeting, China said a draft text put too much burden on the poor to limit greenhouse-gas emissions compared with the rich nations whose citizens have burnt most fossil fuels.

"We need a Lima consensus, but given the current station we have deadlock," Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told delegates from 190 nations seeking to agree the foundation of a UN climate deal to be completed in Paris in a year's time.

US climate change envoy Todd Stern urged all to accept the compromise text, saying failure in Lima would be viewed as a "major breakdown" that would threaten the Paris summit and the credibility of the UN system to address climate change.

"We have no time for lengthy new negotiations, and I think we all know that," he said. "The hour glass is running down."

The clash between the two top emitters of greenhouse gases underscored that an agreement jointly announced by President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping last month to combat climate change did not translate into a new, common approach.

The European Union, Russia and other developed nations all said they could accept a watered-down text outlining measures to be taken by all nations before the Paris summit in December 2015.

Many developing nations said the text did too little to oblige the rich to raise a promised US$100 billion (S$130 billion) by 2020 or to help set up a mechanism to compensate for loss and damage from storms, floods or rising sea levels.

"This text needs a little surgery," said Ian Fry of the low-lying Pacific island state of Tuvalu.

African nations and Opec oil exporters were also among those opposed.

Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, hosting the talks, urged compromise.

"We are very close... We know that we will need your flexibility. Let us work together," he said.

Even if Lima succeeds, it will leave most of the contentious issues for 2015 and the Paris summit, meant to be a global deal to help avert more floods, heat waves, droughts and rising seas.

One text, for instance, gives options for a long-term goal ranging from a radical cut to zero net greenhouse emissions by 2050 to an easily achieved demand of "low-emission development strategies".

The new draft text expressed "grave concern" that all promises to fight climate change were too lax to reach a goal of limiting global warming to an agreed goal of 2 deg C above pre-industrial times.

It lays out detailed ways for nations to submit their domestic plans for fighting climate change beyond 2020 to the United Nations by an informal deadline of March 31, 2015, to help lay the groundwork for Paris.