The United Nations (UN) climate talks moved into their decisive week with rich nations seeking to get the pledges made under the Copenhagen Accord, agreed last year, as part of climate negotiations and the developing world insisting on second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.
Ministers from around the world, including 35 head of the states, have reached Cancun to find a political solution to negotiations that in the first week of 2010 climate summit had narrowed to some disputes. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not coming.
Pressure on ministers to produce some agreement was apparent when European Union's climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said, "We cannot leave Cancun empty handed".
The ministers are looking at decisions on establishing a "green fund" to help poorer nations rein in greenhouse gases and to adapt their economies and infrastructure to a changing climate; an agreement making it easier for developing nations to obtain patented green technology from advanced nations; and pinning down more elements of a system for compensating developing countries for protecting their forests.
Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh said the outcome at Cancun should be built on an agreement on second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, immediate disbursement of fast track finance and continued dialogue on Intellectual Property Right (IPR) issues.
"Hard to say where we are. I can see a workable result that gets decisions across all the major areas," said US special envoy Todd Stern.
Negotiators have two text of documents -- one each on Kyoto Protocol and Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) on climate change -- to work on but most experts say that finding any agreement on them at Cancun will be difficult. The LCA has some elements of the Copenhagen Accord, brokered by US president Barack Obama with India, China, Brazil and South Africa, jointly called Basic group in 2009. As many as 140 nations have endorsed the accord and 85 have made pledged mitigation action. The pledges in the Copenhagen Accord are purely voluntary, and are insufficient to meet the scientific goal of limiting average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above what it was before the industrial age began.
Some breakthrough has already taken place in Cancun with China agreeing to the US concern that all their operations including fully domestic actions, would be open to international scrutiny. "It is a good start. We have to work on it regarding details beyond Cancun," Stern said, while listing some remaining issues such as to whom countries will report their actions and whether other nations will be able to seek answers. "Our differences are reducing," said Xie Zhenhua, China's climate minister.
The Latin American nations Bolivia and Venezuela have, however, come up as biggest spoilsport for United States with they insisting on clear identification of protection of rights of indigenous people in agreements on forestry and finance and second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol.
Christiana Figueres, the UN's top climate official, said backstage efforts were under way to finesse the Kyoto issue. "There is already an active search for that medium ground," she said.