BALI, Indonesia — The U.N. climate chief warned Thursday that a deadlock between the United States and the European Union over pollution cuts threatened to derail talks aimed at launching negotiations for a new global warming pact.
“I’m very concerned about the pace of things,” said Yvo de Boer, as a two-week U.N. climate conference entered its final stretch. “If we don’t get wording on the future, then the whole house of cards falls to pieces.”
Washington has refused to accept language in a draft document suggesting that industrialized nations consider cutting emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020 during upcoming negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
The European Union and other governments say the figures are based on sound science and necessary to rein in global warming, but the U.S., Japan and others argue the inclusion of any numbers would limit the scope of future talks.
The conference, which has drawn delegates from 190 nations to Bali island, is aimed at launching talks on a pact to take effect at the end of 2012. The meeting is scheduled to wrap up Friday.
Other sticking points include demands by developing countries they be given assurances of financial assistance and access to expensive technology to help them transition to cleaner economies.
“At 12 noon tomorrow, time will be up,” said de Boer. “We’re in an all or nothing situation.”
The United States, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the only major industrial country to have rejected Kyoto, has been on the defensive since the conference kicked off on Dec. 3.
Pressure has come even from a one-time ally on climate, Australia, whose new prime minister urged Washington to “embrace” binding targets, and from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change. He will address delegates in Bali later Thursday.
But U.S. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, the head of the American delegation, told reporters that the conference was simply the start of negotiations, not the end.
“We don’t have to resolve all these issues … here in Bali,” she said.
A revised draft document for the conference, obtained by The Associated Press, changed language about emissions targets and was initially interpreted by some here as an effort to exempt the United States.