PREVIEW: Merkel to strong-arm climate-change talks in Berlin
By Georg Ismar and Jean-Baptiste Piggin Jul 2, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to visit world talks on cutting carbon emissions starting in Berlin Sunday, as the German government tries to jump-start the lagging negotiations with time running out.
Germany and South Africa are jointly hosting the meeting in Berlin for a select group of 35 nations, after a fruitless two-week conference by most United Nations members in Bonn last month.
Environment ministry officials have been invited from the main nations involved in the negotiations.
Merkel will address them Sunday afternoon. South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen are to announce on Monday what progress has been made, if any.
South Africa is in charge because it is hosting the next world climate summit starting November 28 in Durban, while Germany has put itself at the head of an environmentalist faction seeking mandatory worldwide cuts in fossil fuel use to prevent the planet from overheating.
Germany staged a similar meeting of experts in May last year and achieved some modest diplomatic movement, but no more progress has been made since the Cancun climate summit in Mexico in December.
'Our climate diplomacy is appreciated,' Roettgen said on Friday.
The parties are debating a new agreement to follow the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires at the end of 2012.
That treaty was only a partial success, being accepted by nations responsible for about 15 per cent of world greenhouse-gas emissions.
The rest, including the United States and newly emerging economies such as India, have not been swayed by all the urging to make deep cuts.
Scientists say current commitments fall far short of what is needed to achieve the agreed UN target: limiting average global warming by the end of this century to no more than 2 degrees celsius compared to the era before industrialization.
Environmental fundamentalists have been horrified at renewed interest in schemes known as geo-engineering, which aim to soak up the carbon dioxide in giant 'sinks' instead of cutting emissions. Pragmatists say such schemes would be cheaper.
Ecologists in Germany were furious when Berlin funded research into ways of fertilizing the oceans so that algae would absorb carbon dioxide from the air and carry it down to the sea floor.
The environmentalists also oppose projects to sequester surplus carbon dioxide in deep rock, for example in exhausted oilfields.
They are also fighting proposals to scatter shiny dust in the atmosphere to create a sunscreen over the earth. The manmade element in global warming is blamed on gases in the atmosphere that prevent energy radiating away from the Earth.
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