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Ministers expected to speed UN climate talks, forest deal could be delayed

As the United Nations climate talks go into the second week in Cancun, European Union climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard said that there has been progress made at the conference but real movement should come this week from ministers.

“Where do things stand five days before this meeting ends? Generally some progress was made… and since the weekend we have updated sets of texts on the table, but the texts are not ready to be used by ministers to finalise the deal. They are still too long, have too many options and are much too complicated,” she said at a press conference at Cancun, Mexico where the talks were held on Monday.

She believes a balanced outcome is within reach in Cancun but it requires the early involvement of ministers, who are arriving in Cancun early this week for high-level ministerial segments of the talks.

In a statement released on Monday, the conference president Patricia Espinosa of Mexico added that ministers “will not be expected to draft compromise language, but to help identify where balance is to be found”.

One sticking point that has emerged from the negotiations so far is the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which binds some developed nations to emission targets and expires in 2012.

Japan has stated it will not consider a second period of commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, while the EU said it would be willing to commit beyond 2012, but under certain conditions - the main one being that other countries commit as well.

The pledges made by countries according to their national circumstances made in the Copenhagen Accord under the Annex is a good starting point, and “something to build upon”, she said.

“It’s only logical that… we should be able to inscribe [the pledges ] in the UN text,” she said.

At the press conference, Ms Hedegaard also said that there may not be a rapid conclusion to the global REDD mechanism, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

“We think it’s one of the complicated areas, where more methodology needs to be done before we can include it,” she said.

Doing it wrong, she added, would undermine the entire carbon market.

“We should be careful not to just open the doors wide on this… [as it will have] some impact on the carbon markets. We need to be very sure of what we’re doing… we need more details, but we hope to have overall political understanding on this issue”.

Her comments come even as many expect an agreement on REDD to be one of the few achievable objectives at the climate talks.

The REDD scheme is key to slowing or eradicating deforestation, which causes huge releases of carbon dioxide. But critics say that the scheme amounts to privatisation of natural resources and that private firms will stand to gain handsome profits from the scheme.

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