UN climate talks were set to wrap up on Saturday with China and the United States locked in a stand-off, slowing down progress ahead of a major summit next month on global warming.
The world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters sparred throughout the six days of talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, although the United Nations’ climate change chief said their rift had not derailed the event.
“I would dare say that this week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun,” Christiana Figueres said, referring to the annual UN summit on global warming in the Mexican city next month.
“This week governments had to address together what was doable in Cancun… they have actually done that.”
Delegates from more than 170 countries attended the latest round of the long-running UN negotiations that are aimed at eventually securing a binding global treaty on how to limit and cope with climate change.
World leaders failed to broker such a treaty in Copenhagen last year as developed and developing nations battled over who should carry more of the burden in curbing the greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming.
Figueres acknowledged that there had been a strong and public spat between China and the United States in Tianjin this week, but sought to play down the importance of their feud on the negotiations.
“I would actually underline that while the conversation is occurring (between the world powers)… many of the other countries have actually been moving forward,” she said.
She also said she was confident a plan by rich nations to give developing countries 30 billion dollars to help them cope with climate change would be finalised at Cancun, an important part in building trust between the two sides.
“I have said and I will continue to say that fast track finance is the golden key to Cancun. I am confident that the golden key will be dutifully unlocked,” she said.
“Developed countries are all committed to the pledges they have made for fast track finance.”
Nevertheless, the European Union said only mixed results had been achieved in Tianjin.
“We have over the past week seen progress but progress has been slow, it was uneven, it went back and forth,” Peter Wittoeck, representing the European Union, told reporters.
China repeated during the week its long-held positions that for progress to be made the United States and other rich nations must commit to making bigger cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
It said they must also give money and transfer technology to developing countries to help them cut their emissions and adapt to climate change.
“Now the key is there is a lack of substantive progress on the developed countries’ side,” the Chinese foreign ministry’s special representative for climate change, Huang Huikang, said on Friday.
The United States, meanwhile, insisted all week that it would not provide climate funds unless the big developing countries such as China allow their greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts to be monitored and verified.
The same issues were crucial factors in the Copenhagen failure last year.
Greenpeace international climate policy director Wendel Trio on Friday criticised the continuing hardline stance from the major players in the talks.
“We need to get out of this culture of confrontation,” Trio told reporters.
“The culture where governments say: ‘We will only move forward if the others move first.’ That’s not what we want. We want all countries to move forward because of the planet, not because of what others are doing.”
The talks are expected to end on Saturday night, following a plenary session in which delegates can discuss the week’s events.
Amid the UN gridlock, a grassroots movement headed by the 350.org and tcktcktck.org environment groups is gearing up for what they say will be the world’s biggest day of climate change action on Sunday.
People in more than 180 countries will plant trees, install solar panels, plant organic vegetables and perform other acts to help the environment during the “Global Work Party”.