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Crunch time at UN climate-change talks

AUSTRALIA has added its voice to increasingly urgent pleas for progress at United Nations-backed climate change talks, as negotiators look to find common ground between deadlocked nations.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told representatives of almost 200 countries that the integrity of the UN process was at stake.
“Too often we allow ourselves to be distracted by process issues and by negotiating tactics,” he said.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet speaks at the Cancun summit.
“It is time now to refocus on the major task at hand. It is imperative for the credibility of this process that we are able to make progress here at this conference.”
But the UN-brokered negotiations appeared unlikely to resolve the core issue of reconciling the legally binding Kyoto Protocol with the commitments on carbon emissions made more loosely under last year's Copenhagen Accord by 85 countries.
Several top negotiators have indicated that a deal between big industrialised nations and developing countries is unlikely to be sealed by tomorrow's 11am (Melbourne time) deadline.
But they insisted there was ample time over coming months to resolve their differences and that their prevarication would not slow world action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
The most likely outcome for the talks being held in the Mexican resort town of Cancun was a carefully worded statement, enough to build momentum towards next year's conference in Durban, South Africa.
Canada's Guy St Jacques was the latest negotiator to hose down expectations of a concrete deal, noting that there were two years before the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expired.
There was no immediate need to secure an agreement on extending Kyoto. “I think our goal is to be further ahead in reaching a legally binding agreement while finding language that will not compromise the Kyoto protocol,” he said.
Developing nations want the 40 or so industrialised countries bound by Kyoto to commit to a second period with new targets for cutting their carbon emissions. But those bound by Kyoto are insisting that developing nation targets should also be binding.
Strings have been attached also to matters regarding the establishment of an annual $US100 billion “green fund” to finance ongoing support for poor nations to cope with climate change, as well as to details regarding transparency and verification of cuts. But progress is assured on key measures to protect rainforests.
Mr Combet, who also announced fresh details of Australia's $A599 million commitment to $US30 billion of fast-start financing for developing nations, said Australia was committed to an outcome that included legally-binding mitigation contributions by all major economies.
“A single treaty for all parties would be the simplest and most transparent option,” he said. “However, we can be flexible on this question in the context of a comprehensive legal outcome.”
Australia has allocated $A169 million of its “fast-start” money to new adaptation projects in the Pacific, south and south-east Asia and Africa, as well as $A15 million to a general adaptation fund.
A further $A32 million has been earmarked for protecting forests in Indonesia, along with funds for renewable energy and market mechanisms.
The Climate Institute praised the package as striking a good balance between support for countries to reduce their the dependency on practises causing pollution and assistance in fighting the effects of climate change.
“Importantly, the roughly 50/50 split … accords with developing countries' calls for a more balanced approach to climate finance,” said the institute's Erwin Jackson.
Australia, together with Bangladesh, heads a key panel that is trying to cement plans for the bigger, long-term fund of public and private money that will provide ongoing finance for developing countries.

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