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Deep rifts remain at UN talks on global climate pact

With a 2015 deadline looming large for a global pact on curbing climate change, six days of UN talks have closed in Bonn with delegates and observers deflated over a lack of progress.

[BONN] With a 2015 deadline looming large for a global pact on curbing climate change, six days of UN talks have closed in Bonn with delegates and observers deflated over a lack of progress.

Rifts over responsibilities for galloping emissions of Earth-warming fossil fuels remain deeply entrenched, they said, preventing detailed negotiations on a new agreement.

The meeting of senior officials in the former West German capital was meant to lay the groundwork for December's round of ministerial-level UN talks in Lima, where a draft of the deal must be outlined for adoption in Paris a year later.

It was also intended to start identifying what information countries will be required to submit when they lodge their pledges for curbing emissions.

A long list of speakers complained at Saturday's closing session of an opportunity lost.

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Ecuador's negotiator Walter Schuldt, on behalf of a group of 30-odd Like-Minded Developing Countries that include major polluters India and China, said they were "thoroughly dissatisfied" with the outcome.

"We lost valuable negotiating time this week with open-ended discussions," he said - a sentiment echoed by African and Arab countries, among others that had hoped for more detailed bartering.

Countries remain divided on such fundamentals as the legal form that the 2015 agreement will take, whether there will be different levels of obligation for rich and poor nations, and how to assess whether national carbon curbing pledges are enough, combined, to avoid the worst climate change scenarios.

Many said the Bonn meeting merely restated well-known country positions on how responsibility for climate action must be shared, instead of discussing details like funding to help poor countries shift to less polluting fuels and adapt to change that can no longer be avoided.

"We will clearly have our work cut out for us in Lima," said Ronald Jumeau, spokesman for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) - countries at high risk from rising sea levels induced by climate change.

And he warned "there won't be an adequate deal unless" developed countries give details soon of financial and expert support.

The meeting's co-chairman Artur Runge-Metzger closed the session by urging negotiators "to redouble your efforts in preparations" for Lima.

And he announced that two additional meetings will be held next year, besides the usual June gathering in Bonn, to allow more time for negotiations.

"We're leaving Bonn with not much more clarity than when we arrived on how we will get the key decisions needed in Lima to confront the threat of climate change," said Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

"From floods and droughts to hurricanes, typhoons and heat waves, we are already suffering the consequences of our past inaction. We need to see much more rapid progress in Lima."

The Paris pact will be the first to unite rich and poor countries under a common legal commitment to curb Earth-warming fossil fuel emissions.

This, in turn, will seek to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Scientists warn that on current trends, Earth could experience double the targeted warming limit - a recipe for potentially catastrophic damage to the climate system - yet emissions continue to rise.

The most anticipated outcome from Bonn had been progress on the "information decision", guiding nations in their emissions pledges - things like which gases will be cut, by how much, and over what period.

This must be finalised by Lima to give countries enough time to present their offers by a loose deadline of the first quarter of 2015.

Yet countries remain deeply divided on the fundamentals of whether the declarations should include rich countries' intended financial help to developing nations.

"People are starting to panic a little" over the mountain of work still to be done, Mr Meyer said.


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