Technology & Science

Climate talks resume following Copenhagen setback

Climate change negotiators began gathering in Bonn Thursday trying to breathe new life into the search for a global warming treaty following the letdown of the Copenhagen summit four months ago.

Climate change negotiators began gathering in Bonn, Germany,  Thursday trying to breathe new life into the search for a global warming treaty after the letdown of the Copenhagen summit four months ago.

But few expect the meeting, which formally begins Friday, to accomplish much beyond simply patching up some of the bitter divisions that emerged in the Danish capital last December when the biggest environmental summit in history came within a hair's breadth of collapsing entirely.

"It is important to rebuild confidence in the process," said Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official.

Officially, the three-day meeting in Bonn is meant to come up with an agenda for talks for the rest of the year, leading up to another major climate conference that begins in Cancun in November.

Unofficially, the Bonn agenda's most important role may be to ensure that the disappointment of Copenhagen doesn't unravel into a noisy clash over who was to blame.

The Copenhagen summit emerged with a vague, three-page document — the Copenhagen Accord — that pledges billions in aid to poor countries who are most vulnerable to the effects of global warming and aims to limit world temperature increases to no more than 2C.

But the accord doesn't spell how that will be accomplished, there's no deadline, and it's not binding.

Fate of Copenhagen Accord unclear

The Copenhagen Accord was the result of last-minute talks among a small group of nations, led by the U.S. Some developing nations were not happy that they were left out of those talks and don't trust the developing world to play fair when it comes to implementing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. 

But others argue that the accord, for all its flaws, showed how much progress could be made when a few key players talk behind closed doors, rather than in cumbersome UN talks involving almost 200 nations.        

De Boer agreed this week that the UN process must be made more efficient. But even he acknowledges that the likelihood of a climate deal this year is remote.

"I don't believe that the Copenhagen Accord will become the new legal framework," he told reporters recently. 

De Boer, who has led the UN's climate change talks for the last three years, will retire on July 1. Leading contenders for the job include India's former environment secretary, Vijai Sharma, South Africa's former tourism minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk and Costa Rica's Christiana Figueres.

With files from The Associated Press