Climate change talks enter high level segment

Talks aimed at reaching a new international agreement to limit and then reduce emissions caused by greenhouse gases were set to ramp up to a higher level today as national environment ministers joined the ongoing negotiations in Cancun.

Remi Gruet, the European Wind Energy Association’s regulatory affairs advisor who is attending the two-week-long United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference, said Monday that observers are wondering if the ministers can take the negotiations to a higher level than the first week of talks.

“The mood of many negotiators now is they don’t know what to do,” Gruet told me. “In Cancun, the talks need to come to something. If [the negotiators] don’t arrive at something, these talks will be dead. So there is hope now the environment ministers can commit to something that will show this process is still alive.”

Gruet said key issues that could be resolved in Cancun concern forests, finance and technology transfer. Echoing many other observers and journalists attending the meeting, he said it is highly unlikely that negotiators will agree to cutting global greenhouse gas emissions at the talks in Mexico.

“Dealing with emission cuts means finalising the package and there is no way anyone will finalise that at this time,” he said, adding any agreement on emissions will almost certainly not occur before the UNFCCC talks in Durban next year or in Qatar in 2012.

Gruet said another problem that has to be resolved in Cancun deals with extending the existing Kyoto Protocol on emissions that is due to run out at the end of 2012.

He said many industrialized nations — but not the European Union — that signed on to the Kyoto Protocol do not want to agree to a second commitment period after it lapses. Instead, he said, they want developing nations to have to start reducing their emissions like developed countries have already agreed to.

“The Kyoto Protocol in itself is a problem for the talks because no one can agree to continue or not continue with it.”

You can see an official view of what happened during the first week of the conference here.

And the Guardian has also reviewed what happened in Cancun last week. Attending the talks, which began 29 November and are scheduled to run until 10 December, are negotiators for 193 nations.

By Chris Rose,