Climate fund talks in disarray as US refuses to sign deal

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Emergency talks are continuing this morning in a bid to rescue a proposed climate fund which is central to securing meaningful resolutions from the UN's climate change conference in Durban.

There is still significant disagreement over how to run the Green Climate Fund, intended to channel billions of pounds to help poorer countries take on climate change, with the US and Saudi Arabia said to be standing in the way.

But climate campaigners said yesterday they were hopeful that a deal would be reached without formally reopening debate on the essentials of the Fund, which would delay agreement about how to implement it in practice. Such a hold-up would jeopardize the chances of securing international consensus on what to do when the main provisions of the Kyoto Treaty expire at the end of next year.

"Some of the poorer countries would be unlikely to sign up to any agreement to take over from the Kyoto Treaty without the promise in place to set up some sort of provision to help them grow at the same time as tackling their carbon output, such as the Fund. Because it is so important, people can use it as a football," said a source at the conference in South Africa.

In a bid to avoid potentially disastrous delays caused by reopening official negotiations on the Fund, the summit's president – South Africa's international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane – is holding a series of informal meetings between the parties. Talks to get to this point have already taken almost a year.

The disagreement surfaced on Wednesday night when delegates from the US and Saudi Arabia said they would not sign off on a report stating how to run the Fund. It is hoped the fund will channel much of the £63bn wealthier countries have pledged to give to their developing neighbours to offset the economic difficulties of limiting their carbon emissions.

They were followed by representatives from Venezuela and other South American nations who expressed doubts about handing a leading role to the World Bank, intended to act as the Fund's interim trustee, because of its perceived links to the US. Nigerian officials also said they were worried that private sector influence would limit poorer nations' ability to decide what to spend the money on.

Yesterday, Lord Prescott, the Rapporteur on Climate Change for the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe, called for the Kyoto Protocol to be put on hold to ensure delegates had time to decide on new measures.

The former Deputy Prime Minister said that, if it were suspended for a period, it could be extended beyond its current finish date: the end of 2012. Launching the Council of Europe's report: "Stop the Clock, Save our Planet," Lord Prescott called Canada, which failed to meet its targets, a "disgrace".

He said: "The rich countries have thrown down the gauntlet to the poorest. We must now pick it up and show these developed countries whose economic growth poisoned the planet, that they must accept their responsibility.

"It seems the US and Canada are still slaves to big oil and their own vested interests, preserving their status quo while obstructing the efforts of others. We propose that by stopping the clock the Kyoto mechanisms, core principles, organisational structures and expertise will not expire and parties could continue to act as if treaty were still in force while time is allowed for negotiations to finalise a new agreement."

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