About 180 nations met for U.N. climate talks on Monday amid warnings that time was running out for them to reach agreement on a hugely complex pact, due for completion at the end of the year.
About 2,400 delegates at the Aug 10-14 negotiations in Bonn will try to shorten a draft text, outlining options for combating global warming, that has swollen to about 200 pages from 50 just a few months ago.
"Time is running out," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters in a conference hall where a large clock is ticking down the 118 days left until a meeting of environment ministers in Copenhagen in December.
"The challenge of this session is to narrow (the) text down," he said. "We have an enormous amount of ground to cover."
The Bonn meeting, the third in Germany this year, was added because of scant progress with the deadline looming. After Bonn, talks before Copenhagen are in Bangkok from September 28-October 9 and in Barcelona, Spain, from November 2-6.
The 200-page text outlines ideas such as ways to register curbs on greenhouse gas emissions by developing nations, how to help the poor adapt to climate change, ways to protect forests and how to raise billions of dollars in new finance.
Among the most important issues for Bonn was "how rich countries are going to show leadership to reduce their emissions," de Boer said.
Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations agreed in Italy last month to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and limit global warming to no more than a two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) rise over pre-industrial times."
NOT ON 2 CELSIUS TRACK
"We are absolutely not on track" to stay below two degrees Celsius, de Boer said.
Temperatures have risen by 0.7 Celsius in the past century and the U.N. Climate Panel projects further rises that will spur heatwaves, droughts, floods, and raise world sea levels.
New Zealand on Monday set a goal of cutting carbon emissions by between 10 and 20 percent by 2020 below 1990 levels, but said the targets hinged on goals by other nations in Copenhagen.
"It's a long way below the levels of ambition needed," said Kim Carstensen, leader of the WWF environment group's global climate initiative, said of New Zealand's goal.
Developing nations such as China and India want the rich to cut by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Average cuts outlined so far work out at about 10-14 percent.
Michael Zammit Cutajar, chairing talks on the 200-page text, said that roughly 30 pages would be a goal for the document's length by the end of the meeting in Bangkok.
De Boer said that there was still a willingness to reach an agreement despite recession that has made many countries unwilling to do more to cut emissions. "There's still a huge political will to come to an agreement in Copenhagen," he said.
Developing nations also said it was vital to have more talks on the financing of any deal in Copenhagen. African nations, for instance, say that at least $267 billion a year will be needed by 2020 to help the poor combat climate change.
With time pressing, Elliot Diringer of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change said Copenhagen would, at best, agree a framework for a deal with many details to be filled in later.
And he said it was "highly unlikely" that the U.S. Congress would agree on a climate bill by Copenhagen.