Countries were setting out their positions at the re-opening of climate talks in Bonn in Germany, the first time countries have met after the UN climate summit in Copenhagen failed to reach a legally binding deal in December.
But rich countries were noticeably cool on their proposals, suggesting that only one more meeting would be held and that the talks could take another year to reach a binding agreement.
In a noticeable U-turn since Copenhagen, when rich countries expressed urgency and tried to push through a legal agreement over the heads of the majority of countries, diplomats lined up to back the slower but more trusted UN system of reaching agreement by consensus.
“In Copenhagen we saw a text put together by a few and a blatant attempt to disregard the Kyoto protocol. This broke the trust of developing countries. Any attempt to exclude the majority will only obstruct the outcome,” said a Congolese spokesman for the African group of nations.
“Developing countries want a result in Mexico. They are now asking why they cannot have one. They are saying ‘let’s keep talking’,” said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based thinktank for developing countries.
In a series of short statements, the African bloc was backed by groups representing the small island states (Aosis), the least developed countries (Ldcs) and many Latin American and Middle Eastern nations.
Many strongly opposed the Copenhagen accord, the weak deal that countries “noted” but did not legally adopt at the end of the Danish talks. This called for countries to “aim at” holding temperatures to 2C, and a transfer of $100bn a year by 2020 to developing countries to help them to adapt to climate change.
“The reduction in emissions proposed [in the Copenhagen accord] would be only 13-17% yet if we are to go below the 2C rise in temperatures it should be 25-40%. If these are the best figures that countries can manage then mother earth is in great danger,” said a Bolivian spokesman.
But Australia, speaking on behalf of the US, Canada, Iceland, Russia and others in the “umbrella group” of rich countries, strongly backed the accord as the way forward in the negotiations. “Copenhagen gave us vital political direction. This has the support of 120 countries who between them represent 80% of global emissions. We are committed to realising this agreement,” a spokeswoman said.
India, one of the powerful group of developing countries which includes China, Brazil and South Africa, sought a middle way. Its delegates said it backed the accord, but also the bottom-up approach demanded by most small countries.
“Consensus has come to be questioned. It’s a dangerous trend. The accord is only a political document. It has the power to build consensus but cannot substitute for the [UN] process,” said a spokesman.
However, the US and China, the world’s two largest emitters of CO2, both declined to make individual statements.