The United Nations climate change chief Wednesday urged countries to "move beyond their national interests in pursuit of a common good" as delegates gathered in China to discuss how to fight the global challenge of climate change.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in China's northern city of Tianjin. A new round of UN climate talks is being held in the port city from Oct. 4 to Oct. 9 in preparation for the year-end Cancun summit in Mexico.
Since the Tianjin gathering was the last preparatory session before the Cancun summit, governments were seriously working to reach the goal of "identifying what elements they will be able to agree on in Cancun," said the UN official.
Figueres said agreement on at least two "elements" was likely to be reached during the Cancun summit.
"One could be a framework to support adaptation. If that should get approved, it would, for example, allow people in Pakistan, who have suffered so terribly in the recent floods, to get support in dealing with the after effects," she said.
Another important mechanism involved technology cooperation, and could promote the sharing of technology among developed and developing countries, she added.
Currently, delegates were working "very constructively" to set up a concrete "agenda of approvals" for the Cancun conference, Figueres said.
However, getting all nations to agree on controling emissions was a big challenge as it involved several "politically-difficult" issues, especially the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, she added.
The Protocol requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions below levels specified for each of them. These targets must be met within a five-year time frame -- between 2008 and 2012 -- and add up to a total cut of at least 5 percent against the baseline of 1990. The first commitment period of the Protocol will expire at the end of 2012.
"Governments have not decided what to do about the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol -- whether there will be a second commitment period, or whether industrialized countries will commit their mitigation pledges under some other framework," Figueres said.
There was also no agreement on how to fund the efforts of developing countries by developed countries to counter climate change.
These tricky political issues have yet to be clarified before a legally-binding agreement can be seriously considered, she said.
Figueres said the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility was "definitely" one of the pillars of the climate convention, and expressed confidence that it would always remain so.
Developed countries have a historical responsibility and must take the lead in mitigating as well as financing the mitigation of developing countries, she said. With the finance and their own growth, developing countries had the opportunity to "contribute to the global efforts at mitigation."
"What cannot be changed is the realities that each country faces, but what can change is their political will," said the climate change chief.
"We are running out of time. If we do not act, and if countries do not come to common decisions and actions, all of us will suffer a worse fate," she said.
Speaking about the negotiating atmosphere at the Tianjin gathering, Figueres said that trust has been rebuilding gradually in the climate talks.
"They (the delegates) are committed to the governmental process, and they are also confident that they will be able to come up with a concrete outcome in Cancun," she said.