Procedural protests by Russia held up part of the UN climate talks on Friday for the fifth successive day, according to frustrated delegates at the labyrinthine negotiations in Bonn.
Russia has been blocking a key technical panel whose work feeds into the 12-day negotiation round.
The Russians, supported by Belarus and Ukraine, are demanding a debate on how decisions are agreed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 20-year forum for addressing global warming and its impacts.
They say they sought to object to a deal at the UNFCCC’s last big meeting, held in Doha, Qatar, last December, that saw an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.
But they complain they were ignored by the conference’s Qatari chairman, who gavelled the agreement through.
“There’s a big fight about how rules are agreed,” said a source with a European NGO. “They obviously feel very sore about what happened there, and they are making a big deal about it.”
Other countries have expressed sympathy for Russia’s argument for clarity on how UN decisions are adopted, but opposed its demands for a debate.
Decisions in climate talks are already crimped by national interests and would be even weaker if they have to be formally adopted unanimously rather than by the fuzzier format of consensus, said one delegate.
“It would have the effect of redoing international law… it’s awkward and dangerous, because it could drag the plenary on, so it would impact the effectiveness of a process that already struggles to make decisions,” said the source.
The spat has held up technical talks on how developing countries are meeting emissions goals, on forestry projects by developed economies and beefing up carbon trading.
A coalition of 850 green groups represented in the Climate Action Network on Friday awarded Russia a symbolic “fossil” for the country “which does the most to block progress.”
The decision at Doha hamstrings the sale of 5.8 billion tonnes of carbon credits that Russia had amassed under the first round of the Kyoto Protocol.
It had gained these credits not through emissions reductions efforts, but after market pressure forced the closure of CO2-spewing factories following the fall of the Soviet Union.
The wrangling in the panel, called the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, did not seem to badly affect other areas of the talks but has stoked worries of time pressure, the sources said.
Unless money can be found for an additional meeting, the Bonn negotiations will be the last before the UNFCCC’s annual minister-level talks, which this year will take place in Warsaw from November 11 to 22.
The goal is to make a giant’s stride toward a global pact on carbon emissions that would be signed in late 2015 and take effect in 2020.
Political interest on tackling climate change at a global level peaked in the runup to the 2009 Copenhagen Summit.
But the low-level compromise that was brokered there, amid scenes of chaos and finger-pointing, has dashed expectations that the UN forum can do very much.