TIANJIN, China — Modest progress at U.N. climate talks Saturday was overshadowed by a continuing deadlock between China and the United States, clouding prospects for a major climate conference in Mexico in December.
Marred by an atmosphere of mistrust, negotiations have made limited headway as the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases blamed each other for holding up talks.
Chief U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing said he was disappointed by the resistance of China and other developing nations to an essential issue: allowing the monitoring and verification of their efforts to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming.
“These elements are a part of the deal. The lack of progress on these gives us concern about the prospects for Cancun,” he said.
Meanwhile his Chinese counterpart, Su Wei, hit back, charging developed countries with failing to commit to substantial reductions in carbon emissions.
“After five years of negotiation, we have seen slow or no progress. The developed countries are trying every means possible to avoid discussion of the essential issue — that is emission reductions,” he said.
The public rift over long-standing divisions between rich and poor nations threatens to jeopardize the possibility of progress at the Cancun meeting.
Delegates from more than 150 nations have been negotiating in China's northeastern city of Tianjin for the past week, working to lay the groundwork for the meeting in Mexico in December.
The U.N. talks aim to secure a binding deal to curb greenhouse gases that cause global warming, but countries disagree on how to split the burden of emission cuts and who should pay for developing countries' efforts to cope with climate change impacts. The talks are intended to find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which mandated modest emissions reductions and expires in 2012.
On their final day of talks, negotiators said modest progress had been made on establishing a climate fund to help poor nations, drawing up guidelines on sharing technology and deforestation issues, but expressed frustration at the overall gridlock.
“We have over the last week seen some progress but progress was slow and uneven,” said EU negotiator Peter Wittoeck. “We think that a big effort will still be needed to crystallize options ... in Cancun.
Expectations had not been high coming into these negotiations, but U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said that despite disagreements, progress had been made in Tianjin.
“This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed to in Cancun. Governments addressed what is doable in Cancun, and what may have to be left to later,” she said.
Last year's U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen disappointed many environmentalists and political leaders when it failed to produce a legally binding treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases.
Scientists have warned that global warming could lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms. Even a 3.6-degree-Fahrenheit (2-degree-Celsius) temperature rise could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050, according to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists.