Climate treaty talks set to begin

Negotiators meet here this week to resume work on a new climate change treaty and discuss ways to prod developing countries to join the fight against global warming.

But the latest round of talks comes at an awkward moment, with the world's poor more worried about the immediate cost of food and fuel than the uncertain long-term effects of climate change.

The weeklong U.N. climate conference opens today, with more than 1,000 delegates in attendance, to work on an agreement to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Scientists say the gases trap the Earth's heat and already have begun to cause more severe tropical storms, harsher droughts in arid areas and melting ice packs in the Arctic.

They have a December 2009 deadline to complete one of the most complex international accords ever negotiated, designed to halve by mid-century the amount of carbon dioxide discharged into the atmosphere from transportation, industry and power generation.

No hard decisions are expected in Accra. Delegates hope to begin drafting treaty language to be adopted at the next meeting in December in Poznan, Poland, when specific targets will be discussed for reducing carbon emissions.

Among the ideas meant to entice developing countries into the climate change process are payoffs for halting deforestation – calculated to contribute 20percent of carbon emissions – and rewards for reducing gases from specific industries or economic sectors.

Global economics add other complications. Harald Dovland, the Norwegian chairman of a key committee on updating the 1997 Kyoto Protocol said his group will hold its first discussion in Accra on the economic and social “spillover effects” of steps to control climate change.

Countries that rely on tourism, for example, are concerned that travel will become more expensive if carbon taxes are imposed on airlines.