Dispute threatens world talks on emissions

BONN — UN climate talks have hit a stumbling block that some delegates say poses a serious challenge to their already slow-moving attempt to craft a global response to climate change.

As the latest negotiation session ended Friday, one track of the talks was paralyzed by a request by Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus to review the decision-making procedure in the two-decade-long UN process.


Decisions in the UN climate discussions are supposed to be taken by consensus — but it is not totally clear what that means in practice. While many agree the decision-making procedure needs to be clarified, they worry that the issue could block the talks at a time when urgent action is needed to tackle climate change.

‘‘If we’re not careful, it could collapse the whole system,’’ said Ronald Jumeau, a delegate from the Seychelles.

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At several climate conferences, after overnight debates with endless interventions, decisions have been gaveled through despite protests.

That occurred in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, when Bolivia was overruled. Last year in Qatar, it happened to Russia, when its objections to a package of decisions including an extension of the 1997 emissions treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol were ignored.

Russia was outraged, and backed by Ukraine and Belarus it used the Bonn session to call for a discussion on the rules of procedure. It did so in a subsidiary body that was supposed to work on a ‘‘loss and damage’’ mechanism for aid to developing countries hit by climate-related disasters. That work never got started because of disputes about how to address decision-making .

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