Back to Square One: Climate talks remain deadlocked at Bangkok

Cancun euphoria fails to yield, power struggle stalls progress, US snub UNFCCC and its efforts to work out a legally binding emissions treaty

Delhi, April 8: US has staged a major U-Turn in the UNFCCC climate change meeting currently underway at Bangkok, leading to a virtual stalemate in the negations which even the euphoria and collective frenzy over Cancun Agreements last year could not resurrect.

Bangkok meeting during this week failed miserably to make any headway on the critical issues of ‘common but differentiated’ commitments on GHG emission reduction and finance – two pillars on which the future of the earth seem to be resting. Even the agenda for negotiations to be negotiated through the year could not be finalized till the end of Friday.

Cancun Agreements had ostensibly made sincere pledges of deep emission cuts, but that failed to bridge the divide between the rich and poorer countries in their unified battle against climate change.

The most significant U-turn was by the US which refused blatantly to any binding treaty to curb global warming, describing it “not doable.” They attributed it to “unrealistic” expectations that formed the basis of current negotiations towards achieving such an instrument.

With the US quite openly positioning themselves against a “legally binding treaty,” undermining the UNFCCC as a negotiating platform and junking historic responsibility, the negotiations are back to a stalemate, similar to one witnessed after the Copenhagen CoP.

The four days of talks had an apparently modest main goal of sorting out an agenda for the rest of the year's negotiations that would lay the foundations for agreements at the annual UN climate summit in South Africa in November.

But delegates said the agenda had still not been decided by Friday, with one key point of dispute an insistence by many poorer countries for a greater focus on actions developed countries must take to fight global warming.

Earlier in the meeting, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres accepted that there would be a gap between Kyoto Protocol commitment and any new mechanism or extension of Kyoto, if any at all.

Todd Stern, the State Department official who heads the U.S. delegation at the 192-nation discussions claimed that the developing countries were seeking a firewall that excludes them from commitments to reduce carbon output which was not acceptable to the United States.

Expectedly, bickering and blames flew thick and fast not to allow Bangkok to achieve anything of substance yet.

US U-Turn: Stern Talk

  • Legally binding treaty not workable and necessary

  • Don’t need such a treaty

  • Developing countries should not seek firewalls against GHG reduction commitments

  • UNFCCC was not the only platform for climate negotiations

  • ‘Historical responsibility’ a non-starter in the real world

  • U.S. may circumvent the UN process