UN talks seeking to halt the march of global warming enter their final day in Doha on Friday with key points still outstanding: extending the greenhouse gas-curbing Kyoto Protocol and funding for poor countries.
Delegates are preparing for a long day and night of final haggling to find consensus on interim ways to rein in climate change and smooth the way to a new deal that must enter into force in 2020.
NGOs and delegates expressed frustration at the pace of negotiations that started on November 26 and coincided with a slew of new scientific warnings that Earth faces a calamitous future of more frequent extreme weather events. "Political negotiators need to realise urgently that the climate does not negotiate," Greenpeace chief executive Kumi Naidoo told AFP in the final hours of the talks.
"Negotiations are out of touch with scientific reality. This is about human survival."
Funding to help poor countries deal with the fallout from global warming and convert to planet-friendlier energy sources emerged as a key sticking point between negotiators from nearly 200 countries. Developed countries were pressed to show how they intend to keep a promise to raise climate funding for poor countries to $100 billion (76 billion euros) per year by 2020--up from a total of $30 billion in 2010-2012.
Developing countries say they need at least another $60 billion between now and 2015. But the United States and European Union have refused to put concrete figures on the table in Doha for 2013-2020 funding, citing tough financial times.
Another point of contention was "hot air," the name given to Earth-warming greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were given under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use -- some 13 billion tonnes in total.
The credits can be sold to nations battling to meet their own quotas, meaning greenhouse gas levels decrease on paper but not in the atmosphere. Poland and Russia emitted much less than their lenient limits, and insisted in Doha on being allowed to bank the difference beyond 2012--a move vehemently opposed by most other parties.
Agreement on hot air is key to the Doha delegates extending the life of the Kyoto pact, whose first leg expires on December 31. The protocol is the world's only binding pact on curbing greenhouse gases, but locks in only developed nations and excludes major developing polluters such as China and India, as well as the United States, which refused to ratify it.
A new 2020 deal, due to be finalised by 2015, will include commitments for all the nations of the world. The Philippines urged bickering UN climate negotiators on Thursday to take heed from the deadly typhoon that struck the archipelago this week and wake up to the realities of global warming.
"As we sit here, every single hour, even as we vacillate and procrastinate here, the death toll is rising," climate envoy Naderev Sano told delegates. German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier predicted on Thursday that the talks "will be on the knife's edge up to the last moment."