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Climate talks bog down in rich-poor split

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 8:06 PM EST, Wed November 20, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Science is telling us we need to do more," Ban Ki-moon tells climate conference
  • Warsaw conference split between developed and developing nations
  • Developing nations want more support for adapting to a warming world

(CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged developed nations to "lead by example" Wednesday as a climate change conference bogged down over support for poor nations trying to adapt to a warming world.

The two-week conference in Poland's capital, Warsaw, opened with a hunger strike by the top delegate from the typhoon-battered Philippines to demand concrete action toward a new global pact on climate change. But with two days of talks left, participants said countries remained split on the big issues.

"Next year will require a lot of heavy lifting if we are to remain on track for an agreement in 2015," Ban said Wednesday. He called on countries to put their money where their mouths were by devoting more funding to deal with climate change and the carbon emissions blamed for causing it.

"The developed countries have great capacity and should lead by example," Ban said.

"Science is telling us we need to do more. Economists are highlighting the huge cost of inaction. Businesspeople want the signals from government that will create the right incentives to build a low-carbon future," he added.

The Warsaw conference brings together countries that have signed onto the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to review their progress in limiting global temperature increases. But this year's meeting has been discouraging for advocates of aggressive action to limit carbon emissions and rein in a projected increase in global average temperatures.

Australia's new conservative government recently announced plans to repeal a carbon tax aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Japan announced last week it wouldn't meet its stated emissions targets, citing the replacement of nuclear power plants idled after the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi with fossil fuel generation. Canada made a similar announcement in October.

A study released Tuesday by researchers at Britain's East Anglia University found greenhouse gas emissions will top 39 billion tons in 2013. The rate of increase has slowed, but the improvement is a drop in the bucket by global standards.

Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec, the Warsaw conference's president, lost his job in a Cabinet shuffle on Wednesday. But Korolec told delegates that Prime Minister Donald Tusk is keeping him on as president of the conference and as a government official responsible for climate policy.

Delegates from developing countries staged a three-hour walkout early Wednesday to protest what Kamrul Haque, a member of Bangladesh's delegation, called a "stalemate" over how to compensate their nations for climate-related losses. Haque said negotiators had gone back into the talks Wednesday night, but added, "Unless and until everything is agreed, then nothing is agreed."

But Todd Stern, the head of the U.S. delegation, said the talks ended "with everybody leaving" after "businesslike and productive" discussions.

"I don't see this negotiation blowing up over that," he said. "I think we will find a resolution, but we're still some distance apart."

An October study in the scientific journal Nature noted that more than 5 billion people live in areas that would be affected by climate change by 2050, and the countries that will first see its effects are the ones least capable of responding.

U.N. members have committed to setting up a $100 billion-a-year fund to deal with climate change. But Steve Kretzmann of the U.S.-based environmental group Oil Change International said global subsidies for fossil fuel industries already top $500 billion and some estimates run as much as $2 trillion.

"There is plenty of money there," Kretzmann said. "It's just going in the wrong direction for the moment."

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