Doha climate talks: US faces dilemma over final text

NGO protests at the talks in Doha, Qatar Various NGOs have protested at the talks in Doha

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There has been a historic shift in the UN climate talks in Qatar, with the prospect of rich nations having to compensate poor nations for losses due to climate change.

The US has fiercely opposed the measure - it says the cost could be unlimited.

But after angry tussles throughout the night the principle of Loss and Damage is now in the final negotiating text.

Small island states at risk from inundation say they will walk out if the US vetoes the proposed deal.

The political stakes are high. The EU's position is not yet well defined, but soundings suggest that it can live with the text.

The US will be seeking support from other big polluters - like Canada - likely to face liability for climate damages.

If the US is left alone fighting against the chair's text, its negotiators face a dilemma - either to bow to the majority and accept that the nations which caused climate change bear a moral responsibility to other nations damaged by it, or to refuse to sign.

If the US vetoes the text, President Barack Obama will be accused of hypocrisy and failure after re-committing himself to tackling climate change since his re-election.

Start Quote

"I will block this. I will shut this down”

End Quote Todd Stern US chief negotiator

If he agrees the text he will face criticism from Republicans, whilst he tries to negotiate his own deal over US government finances.

One campaign group in Doha tweeted that before the text was agreed Todd Stern, the US chief negotiator, was heard saying: "I will block this. I will shut this down."

Saleem ul-Huq, from the think-tank IIED, told the BBC: "This is a watershed in the talks. There is no turning back from this. It will be better for the US to realise that the principle of compensation is inevitable - and negotiate a limit on Loss and Damage rather than leave the liability unlimited.

"[President Obama] has just asked Congress for $60bn (£37bn) for the effects of Sandy - developed nations are already having to foot the bill for loss and damage of their own."

The Qatari chair has warned delegates that only a few hours remain to sign off the deal. He says the conference will not overrun by another day.

Principle at stake

It is a point of principle that is at stake here for developing countries. In the end it's questionable how much extra money a Loss and Damage Mechanism might bring.

Already poor nations are bitter that rich nations, particularly the US are dragging their feet over a promise made at the failed Copenhagen climate summit to mobilise $100bn by 2020 to help poor nations get clean energy and adapt to climate change.

The developing countries say the original sum was too low - especially in the light of Mr Obama's request to Congress for Sandy damages of $60bn, and the UK's bid to raise £200bn for clean energy by 2020.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Even if you think climate change is exaggerated, we should STILL be looking to reduce these emissions and finding sustainable, renewable resources. America seems to be the only nation trying to hold everyone back on this issue, and unsurprisingly they're a majority religious society most of whom have no concept of or interest in the scientific method. We need to put them in their place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Good for you Happiness I am with you on this one

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Oh, so now UN is turning into a free for all world benefits system & we have to apologise & pay extortion fees, lol.



  • Comment number 233.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    There used to be millions of Cod in our seas and oceans ... Not now though ... Look at the list of endangered species..
    I'm sure this has nothing to do with our raping of the world either .... It is all part of the natural balance ? Look out planet Earth , here we come .. Now we go to Mars and the recent findings from 'Curiosity' suggest that 'organics' are there .. NASA are not sure tho ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Too little, too late!
    My advice: If you haven't got any kids yet, don't start now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    In Scotland the Government is trying to build a clean national grid,a sentiment I fully approve of,but our carbon emissions in the big picture are minuscule.China are the big polluters.Until China stops consuming there can be no change.This just strikes me as the mentality certain nations have,always with their hand out.Have a referendum to see if people want to send more money abroad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Politicians have been activelly pushing climate change as an excuse for raising revenues through carbon taxes, fuel surcharges etc for decades.

    They can't really complain when people claim compensation for damage caused by their cash cow.

  • Comment number 228.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    They used to call it global warming. Why is that term not used any more? fanatical sheep leading the innocent and unbelieving to poverty. Other cults are self financing why do we have to pay for this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    we need to go back to basics otherwise modernisation will ruin us and this country is talking about building on more green belt and GROWTH- what a joke!- The only things that will grow are: poverty, population and crime- what a mess

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    @222 I couldn't agree more .... it's already been tried and look what happened to Easter Island!

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    222 The Bloke

    What? The UK has been inundated with Native Americans? First, I've heard...

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    We are in an interglacial period - a brief (in geological terms) respite from the current, ongoing Ice Age. It could be argued that pumping greenhouse gas into the atmosphere is staving off the inevitable reglaciation of much of Europe and North America.

    Just a thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.//

    And only after the last field in the UK has been paved over to provide Lebensraum for immigrants will the BBC admit that maybe immigration was a crap idea after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    It's a bit of Blue Sky thinking here, with CO2 once we know how to start making items out of Carbon Nanotubes, and other Carbon Based materials, the fact that we would be able to 'just' remove it from the Atmosphere has got to be worth something at least! You'll probably get the Global Cooling believers after you!..

  • Comment number 220.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    I wonder what will happen when the scientists finally admit they have got it all wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    You must be having a laugh was my first thought when I read this story, the UK is suffering Austerity cuts, with foodbanks on the rise,Public Sector being dismantled, and hope disappearing rapidly.Now the Government is in discussions to pay for weather damage to other countries.What about the damage happening in the UK.I do not want one penny of my tax to go abroad for anything anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    @205, except that he's right, and there was nothing "leftish" about it.

    How can you have an equal debate when for every person on one side, there's 99 on the other?

    @207, ignoring the other facts still, I see? More important is the retention of the energy from the sun. That is: What effect the greenhouse gases have; albedo; ocean temperatures...


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