Talks on climate-change treaty to start in Indonesia

December 03, 2007|By New York Times News Service

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Thousands of government officials, industry lobbyists, environmental campaigners and observers are arriving on the Indonesian island of Bali for two weeks of talks starting today that are aimed at breathing new life into the troubled 17-year-old global-climate treaty.

But few participants expect this round of talks to produce significant breakthroughs. At most, they say, it will result in new commitments to negotiate to update the original treaty by the end of 2009.

"The bulk of attention will be on the future," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organization administering the treaty. "My hope is that we can formally launch negotiations and form an agenda for those negotiations that will lead to a long-term policy response to climate change."

The original treaty, signed by almost all of the world's nations in 1992, set voluntary goals for curbing the emission of greenhouse gases, but few of those goals have been met.

Five years later, the Kyoto Protocol, a much-praised 1997 addendum to the original pact, set mandatory limits on emissions, but only for the three dozen industrialized countries that ratified it, and only through 2012. Since it took effect in 2005, emissions have continued to rise in many of those countries.

"We would be in big trouble if we can't reach an agreement to move forward by the end of the conference," de Boer said. "The science is clear. We now need a political answer."

By far the biggest obstacle to forging a new accord by 2009 is the United States, analysts say. Senior Bush administration officials say the administration will not agree to a new treaty with binding limits on emissions. Instead, President Bush recently proposed that the world's biggest countries work toward a common long-term goal set decades in the future, without specific targets or limits, and more immediate goals set by individual nations using whatever means they choose.

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