UN climate change talks in Warsaw hampered by development gap

Developing countries walk out of a meeting amid a disagreement on who should pay for climate change problems

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during a session of U.N. Climate Change Conference on Nov. 19, 2013, in Warsaw.

Developed and developing nations were deadlocked Wednesday over how to raise aid to help developing countries cope with global warming, in another setback at United Nations climate talks in Warsaw seeking progress toward a new global climate accord.

With two days left in talks trying to reach a new agreement meant to be concluded in 2015 and enter into force from 2020, negotiators for developing nations including China walked out early Wednesday from a meeting about compensation for the impact of global warming.

"We do not see a clear commitment of developed parties to reach an agreement," said Rene Orellana, head of Bolivia's delegation.

Bolivia and other developing countries accused wealthier nations of failing to show willingness to discuss aid or compensation for losses and damage widely blamed on global warming, such as rising sea levels and creeping desertification.

For many less-developed countries, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has raised the urgency of compensation.

Global economic losses caused by extreme weather have risen to nearly $200 billion a year over the past decade and look set to increase further as climate change worsens, the World Bank said this week.

"The compensation that those countries require is something that is absolutely fundamental and crucial," said India's environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan.

Apportioning blame

The question of who is to blame for global warming is central for developing countries, who say they should receive financial support from richer nations to help make their economies greener, adapt to climate shifts and cover the costs of unavoidable damage caused by warming temperatures.

Also, they say the fact that richer nations have historically released the biggest amounts of heat-trapping CO2 – by burning fossil fuels for more than 200 years – means they need to take the lead in reducing current emissions.

In Warsaw, developing nations are coming up with new ways to make their point. Brazil has proposed creating a formula to calculate historical blame.

"They must know how much they are actually responsible ... for the essential problem of climate change," Brazilian negotiator Raphael Azeredo said.

Developed nations blocked that proposal, however, saying the world should look at current and future emissions when dividing up the responsibility for global warming.

China, considered a developing nation at these talks, overtook the United States to become the world's biggest carbon polluter in the last decade, and developing countries as a whole now have higher emissions than the developed world.

To focus only on past emissions "seems to us as very partial and not very accurate," Todd Stern, the U.S. climate envoy, said.

The U.S. wants to get rid of the U.N.'s current division between developed and developing nations. Stern noted that a 2007 study showed that by 2020 the all-time emissions of developing countries will exceed those of the developed world, due to emissions growth in large emerging economies like China and India.

Those countries are trying to develop in a cleaner way, but say it is unfair to expect them to abstain from the more polluting fuels that built Western economies into powerhouses with high living standards.

Finding a way to share the burden of emissions cuts in an equitable manner is one of the top challenges for the climate negotiators, whose overall goal is to keep average global temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees F from what they were in preindustrial times.

Scientists say the global average temperature has already risen by 1.4 F, resulting in melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other climate impacts.

Wire services

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