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Bonn Climate Change Talks: Developing Countries Fight With Rich Nations In Stalled Negotiations

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AMSTERDAM -- Developing countries said Friday that rich nations are refusing to negotiate an extension of their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, charging that they sought to "maintain their privileges and levels of consumption" at the expense of the poor.

Two-week climate negotiations among 183 nations in Bonn, Germany, which reached their halfway point Friday, were stalled for three days this week in a fight over the agenda. Structured in four bodies, formal talks only began in two of them on Thursday as countries haggled over what should be discussed.

The agenda squabble was more than procedural, however. It reflected deeper questions involving the objectives at the next major climate conference in Durban, South Africa, beginning Nov. 28, and underscored the continued rift between blocs of nations.

The United States and other industrial countries want the Durban conference restricted to refining the few agreements reached last year, rather than return to intractable questions that have shadowed climate talks for years. Developing countries say those questions must be addressed.

One key issue is the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 accord which requires nearly 40 wealthy countries to reduce carbon emissions by a total 5 percent below 1990 levels during the period 2008-2012.

Jorge Arguello, head of a 131-nation group of developing countries, said industrial countries are blocking discussion on renewing their Kyoto pledges.

Arguello cited a study released this week that the pledges from developing countries were greater than those from the industrial world.

"It is unthinkable that developed countries are still insisting that the poorest of the poor should suffer the burden so they can maintain privileges and levels of consumption that are unsustainable," said Arguello, who is Argentina's ambassador to the U.N.

Developing countries, which have no obligations under the Kyoto deal, want the commitments by these bound under Kyoto to be extended for a second period, with deeper targets. Wealthy countries want big emerging economies like China and India to accept parallel legal obligations, at least to lower the trajectory of their emissions growth.

Japan, Canada and Australia already have said they will not be part of a second commitment period, nor be legally bound after 2013. The United States never accepted Kyoto.

The pledges, submitted after the last ministerial climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, are universally recognized as insufficient to keep the planet from warming 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 F) higher preindustrial levels. Scientists say anything beyond that raises the risk of catastrophic climate changes, including more frequent and severe storms, melting ice that will raise sea levels and threaten coastal cities, and alterations of agriculture and water access.

Developing countries put forward other agenda demands that tied Bonn negotiators in knots. Saudi Arabia revived its demand to discuss compensation for the loss of oil revenues in a post-petroleum world. Bolivia wanted all discussion of payment for reducing deforestation struck from the agenda, saying forests should not be part of a carbon market and subject to commercialization.

The United States objected to discussions on how to raise $100 billion a year to help poor countries build low-carbon economies and adapt to global warming. Instead, it wanted to continue discussing how to monitor and verify actions by China and others to lower emissions.

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