On the skids and looking forward to the ride

By Eloise Gibson

Shortly after the UN climate talks hit the skids, Yvo de Boer was asked at a press conference whether it was true that negotiations had stalled.

Hallway rumours at the over-stuffed Bella Centre said African countries had staged a walk-out, but no one could get near enough to the negotiating rooms to check.

Wearing a bright yellow necktie and a cheerful expression, the UN climate chief insisted that as far as he knew "nobody was trying to block anything" inside the session.

He was upbeat when asked how the rest of the week would go.

"We are queuing up for the cable car, and the rest of the ride is going to be fast, smooth, and relaxed," he quipped.

As the afternoon wore on, details emerged of a rift at climate's big week of talks that has been patched up but not fully repaired.

Resorting to the only threat they could make, African countries from the G77-China bloc temporarily stopped talks about a new term for the Kyoto Protocol because they said there was no point when developed countries had not yet committed to making emissions cuts.

Meanwhile industrialised countries' said they would not offer big cuts until they knew that developing countries would be bound.

In the middle were the big developing countries. China and India neither spoke out with the poorer countries nor agreed with the industrialised countries on binding targets.

Both have plans to curb emissions, but baulk at being legally bound.

As negotiators in the sprawling conference centre struggled to make headway, ministers led by the Danish Environment Minister began working informally together to try to break the deadlock. They will officially join the talks today.

Many countries, including New Zealand, would rather have a single new agreement covering all countries.

But poorer countries are not having a bar of it.

They say Kyoto is the only thing binding rich countries to take action, and they will not risk losing that safeguard.

Negotiations are therefore happening on two tracks - one for developing countries and one for industrialised nations under Kyoto.

Reports from inside say the United States and China do not appear interested in Kyoto and where that leaves talks is unclear.

As time drags on, more hopes are being pinned on the arrival of more than a hundred world leaders on Thursday.

Taking a break as his officials worked on late into the evening, New Zealand negotiating minister Tim Groser said that while a day had been wasted there was good reason to be buoyed by the attitudes of India and China.

"Surely out of this you can create an agreement at the highest level of Government."

- NZ Herald

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