Durban climate talks ‘roadmap’ held up by India

EU plan to preserve Kyoto protocol and establish new parallel treaty finds support among some developing countries

John Vidal in Durban and Fiona Harvey, Sunday 4 December 2011 18.38 GMT

A European plan to unblock UN climate talks with a new global treaty is being held up by India and some developing countries who feared it would take too long to negotiate and lead to lweaker pledges by wealthy countries.

The “Durban roadmap” came to the fore on Sunday night during the climate talks because the first phase of the Kyoto protocol treaty will expire next year, with several rich countries refusing to commit to further emission cuts and deadlines.

The EU compromise proposal offers to preserve the Kyoto protocol with a legally binding parallel treaty which would force all countries to cut emissions, but at different speeds and timescales.

Europe and the South African chair of the talks are thought to have persuaded the 42-strong Alliance of Small Island States coalition and the 48 least developed countries to back the EU. “China is sending signals of flexibility, Indonesia, South Africa, and Brazil are sympathetic but India is still saying the current treaty is a red line,” said an EU source.

As the UK energy secretary, Chris Huhne, and senior ministers from more than 190 countries flew to Durban for high-level negotiations, deep divisions remained between the world’s biggest emitters and many smaller countries over finance, forests and how to raise the ambition of cuts.

Many African and Latin American countries said they feared richer countries were wasting time trying to re-negotiate the Kyoto protocol.

“Instead of concluding negotiations now, they are trying to launch a new route which is in danger of superceding what is already there with an even weaker system. We fear that we will not have legally binding targets and timetables”, said a diplomat from one African country.

A spokeman for Venezuela said: “All the options so far from developed countries move towards a lowering of ambition.”

Environment groups urged countries to renew their pledges under the Kyoto treaty and not be sidetracked by promises of a better deal. “Negotiating a new climate deal will take too long and be a recipe for inaction,” said Andy Atkins, head of Friends of the Earth.

Ministers will this week try to whittle down a new draft of more than 130 pages to reach agreement. The best hopes are that agreements will be reached on finance and forests.

“After six days of talks, we seem to be moving backward, not forward,” said Tasneem Essop, head of WWF international climate strategy. “It’s time for governments to bravely stand side-by-side with their citizens. The stakes are enormous as we fight to secure enough food, water and energy for all.”

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