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Christiana Figueres: Catastrophes Have Renewed Countries' Urgency To Fight Climate Change

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BEIJING — The United Nations' climate chief on Friday urged countries to be flexible in order to make progress at weeklong climate talks in China next month, the last formal negotiations on climate change ahead of a major year-end meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, said countries need to be willing to negotiate with each other in order to pave the way toward consensus on a global climate deal.

"It is in their interest to be very practical, very pragmatic, and take very concrete and firm steps forward in Cancun," she told a small group of reporters.

Figueres was on a brief trip to Beijing to finalize preparations for the Oct. 4-9 preparatory meeting in Tianjin, outside the capital.

Last year's U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen disappointed many environmentalists and political leaders when it failed to produce a global and legally binding treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Instead, nations agreed to a nonbinding political declaration on fighting climate change.

However, Figueres said countries have felt a renewed urgency to address global warming given this year's series of frequent and catastrophic disasters, including massive flooding in Pakistan, drought and fires in Russia, and mudslides and floods in China.

"All these events are constant reminders to governments that they need to deal in a consummate manner together to address climate change," she said, adding, "It needs to be the contribution of all countries together to be effective."

The goals for Cancun are less about reaching a binding treaty than moving forward on operational decisions on funding and technology transfer from industrialized nations to developing countries to deal with the effects of climate change, she said.

A key component would be implementing the transfer of billions of dollars from industrialized nations to developing nations to deal with the effects of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Rich nations had pledged to give $30 billion over three years, with an eventual goal of $100 billion by 2020.

It would also include the establishment of a mechanism so cutting-edge technology could be transferred between advanced and developing nations to combat climate change.

The Tianjin conference will be critical in allowing countries "to begin to identify what is already ripe for adoption (in Cancun) ... and what are those issues that require further conversation," Figueres said.

Figueres, from Costa Rica, was appointed earlier this year to replace outgoing climate chief Yvo de Boer, who resigned after expressing frustration over the limited results at Copenhagen.

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