DURBAN (Reuters) – Rich and poor nations at climate change talks are lining up behind an EU plan for achieving a global pact on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, but delegates said time was running out to reach a deal before talks end on Friday.
Ministers made incremental progress overnight towards a deal that many envoys see as being a political agreement, with states promising to start talks on a new regime of binding cuts in the gases blamed for global warming and environmental devastation.
Anything less would qualify the two-week-long, United Nations negotiations in the South African city of Durban as a disaster, they say.
“Time in Durban is now really short,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters after talks that stretched into the early hours of Friday morning.
“The success or failure of Durban hangs on a small number of countries who have not yet committed to the (EU) roadmap and the meaningful content it must have. We need to get them on board today. We do not have too many hours left,” she said.
The European Union plan envisages a new deal reached by 2015, and put into effect by 2020, imposing binding cuts on the world’s biggest emitters of the heat-trapping gases.
“We’re reaching the point where a number of delegations have got to decide whether they want to get a treaty with real environmental integrity,” Britain’s climate envoy Chris Huhne told reporters.
“It’s increasingly clear that the EU is speaking for the vast majority of participants,” Huhne said.
Two major issues for the negotiators from nearly 200 countries are finding a way of updating the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that enforces carbon cuts, and raising funding needed to help poor countries tackle climate change.
Key to any greenhouse gas deal will be China, the United States, India and Brazil – the world’s largest emitters which are not bound by the cuts regime in the Kyoto Protocol.
Three U.N. reports released in the last month show time is running out to achieve change. They show a warming planet will amplify droughts and floods, increase crop failures and raise sea levels to the point where several island states are threatened with extinction.
South African President Jacob Zuma has said Durban will be a failure if a Green Climate Fund, designed to help poor nations tackle global warming and nudge them towards a new global effort to fight climate change, is not put into force.
A group of 48 of the least developed countries has said it backs the European plan for a firm timetable, joining 43 small island states. Japan has said it shares “common ground” with Europe while Canada and several other developed countries have shown their support.
The EU, Japan and others have said that any deal that does not include all major players would not nearly be enough to head off a global problem.
The United States has said it will make its emissions cuts binding under an international agreement only if China and other developing countries that are big polluters back their commitments with equal legal force.
If the discussions hold to form, envoys will extend discussions and release their decisions on Saturday.
(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak, Barbara Lewis, Nina Chestney and Michael Szabo; editing by Jon Boyle)
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