13 Dec 2009

NZ won't support island states on climate

6:22 am on 13 December 2009

New Zealand is not supporting a push by small island nations at the Copenhagen climate conference for a tougher global warming limit.

The Association of Small Island States has circulated a proposal calling for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to be reduced to 350 parts per million and temperature rises held to less than 1.5 degrees celsius.

The island states - like Tuvalu and Kiribati - want a new protocol that commits both developed and developing countries to urgent action.

A spokesperson for the association, Dessima Williams, told the conference: "We are living on the frontlines of climate change. The planet is now 0.8 degrees warmer from its pre-industrial days, and at that level of heat a large number of our islands are already experiencing significant damage."

Focus remains on limit of 2 degrees more

New Zealand's head negotiator, Adrian Macey, says that the small states' proposal is unrealistic, and that the focus needs to be on "what's achievable and practical" in terms of what can be negotiated right now.

Chief US negotiator Todd Stern says he understands the small island nations' concerns but their desired target is "not in reach" and the focus remains a limit of 2 degrees celsius.

Delegates from 192 nations are in the Danish capital to work out a ways of fighting global warming after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The draft agreements will be the basis for negotiation by world leaders when they join the conference next week.

US, Australia criticise new draft

The United States and Australia have criticised a new draft put to the conference, saying it is unbalanced.

The drafts, by two United Nations working groups, call for greenhouse gas emissions to be at least halved by 2050 from 1990 levels, and also seek to bridge long-standing rifts between rich and poor nations.

Mr Stern says the drafts unfairly require legally binding cuts on developed countries like the US but only voluntary ones on emerging economies such as China and India.

He says any move to strongly limit global temperature rises has no chance without those countries. "The structure is kind of a structure that reflects old think, if you will," he says, "and we can't get the problem solved that way."

Australian climate change minister Penny Wong believes the drafts are too soft on developing nations.

'Sense of relief' with shorter drafts

Adrian Macey says, however, that notwithstanding objections from most countries to parts of the texts, the drafts have given the talks a new lease of life. He told Radio New Zealand that negotiators now have short, manageable drafts on which to focus.

"I think there's a sense of relief that we're no longer faced with hundreds and hundreds of pages and completely bogged down discussions," Mr Macey says.

The drafts do not specify if the target limit for temperature rise should be 2 degrees celsius or the tougher 1.5 sought by small island nations.

Mr Macey says countries are heading for a showdown on that point when ministers, including New Zealand's Tim Groser, meet next week.

He says New Zealand would like to see review periods included in the final agreement so that targets can be tightened in future.

EU pledges billions to help poorer nations

European Union leaders have agreed to pay nearly $14 billion over the next three years to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

After a long night of negotiations in Brussels, the BBC reports, the funds were pledged to assist poor countries combat rising sea levels, deforestation, water shortages and carbon emissions.

Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says old and new financial resources will be made available.

Mr Reinfeldt, who chaired the meeting, says all 27 EU countries will contribute. "Europe is showing leadership in taking its fair share," he says, "and we urge others to do the same."

British prime minister Gordon Brown says Britain's commitment of $1 billion a year is the highest.