- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BONN | A tax on airline tickets and an auction of pollution rights are just two ideas likely to be studied at a 162-nation conference examining ways to raise the billions of dollars needed every year to fight global warming.

More than 2,000 delegates opened the two-week meeting Monday, the start of an 18-month process of intense negotiations on an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Discussions began with a warning from poor countries and environmentalists that global warming already is harming millions of people, worsening the global food crisis and changing the planet more rapidly than scientists predicted.

Climate change “for us is not a distant reality, but a present reality,” said Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, whose Indian Ocean island nation could vanish if sea levels rise just a few feet.

Recent cyclones that have battered Burma and Bangladesh “should be a wake-up call to all of us,” he said, speaking for 49 nations grouped as Least Developed Countries.

The Bonn talks are to go into the details of an agreement to be concluded in December 2009 and signed in Copenhagen. The talks are based on an accord reached in Bali, Indonesia, in December when the United States, India and China indicated that they would take part in a post-2012 arrangement.

“The critical issue will be financial engineering,” said Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ top climate official.

“The developing countries made a major step forward by saying in Bali they are willing to take real, measurable and verifiable steps to limit their emissions - provided real, measurable and verifiable money is put on the table,” he said.

The new climate-change pact will succeed the first phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The United States agreed to the Bali accord after several of its objections were met. It had signed but refused to ratify Kyoto, largely because rapidly developing economies like India and China faced no climate obligations.

At least seven more major meetings are scheduled before Copenhagen, with the next in August in Accra, Ghana. Delegates say the new pact must be concluded by December 2009 so it can be ratified in time to smoothly replace Kyoto in 2012.

Few, if any, conclusions were expected from the Bonn talks.

The most difficult issues have been put off until next year, when a new and presumably more climate-friendly administration takes over in Washington.

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