by Staff Writers
Buenos Aires (AFP) Sept 30, 2010
Argentina's Congress passed a law early Thursday that seeks to protect environmentally sensitive glaciers by imposing strict limits on mining, potentially affecting foreign investments.
The measure, approved in the Senate by a vote of 35 to 33 with one abstention, prohibits mining near glaciers along Argentina's 5,000 kilometer (3,100 mile) border with Chile.
The senate also rejected a less restrictive version of the bill which was supported by provinces whose economies depend on mining.
President Cristina Kirchner vetoed a 2008 bill to protect glaciers, which was instrumental in clearing the way for a mega project by Canadian company Barrick Gold.
Development of the Pascua Lima project, one of the world's biggest untapped gold mines, involves a three billion dollar investment over 25 years in the Andes along the Argentine-Chilean border.
Environmentalists have opposed the project as a threat to the region's glaciers.
earlier related report
The six-days of talks in the northern city of Tianjin are part of long-running efforts through the United Nations to secure a post-2012 treaty to limit global warming and avoid potential environmental catastrophes.
The event is the first time that China, the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases, which scientists say cause global warming, has hosted a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting.
Little progress has been made since world leaders failed to broker a deal in Copenhagen last year and the delegates were told they had to break the stalemate ahead of another UN climate summit in Mexico starting next month.
"As governments you can continue to stand still or move forward. Now is the time to make that choice," UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres said in an address at the start of the conference.
"Now is the time to accelerate the search for common ground."
The final goal of the process is a treaty aimed at curbing greenhouse gases, which could potentially be clinched late next year at a UN summit in South Africa, in time to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires at the end of 2012.
Scientists have warned that urgent and comprehensive action is required if global warming is to be kept below the extreme danger threshold of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial levels.
However, after the Copenhagen failure and the continuing battles between developed and developing countries over who should shoulder responsibilities for curbing greenhouse gases, expectations have been lowered.
The focus for now is just on trying to broker a package of small deals on specific issues, such as cooperation on clean energy technologies and rewarding developing countries for not cutting down rainforests.
But Figueres said devastating floods in Pakistan and China this year, as well as fires in Russia, were a taste of the extreme weather that humans will endure if world leaders do not do more to curb greenhouse emissions soon.
"The bottom line is that it is in no one's interest to delay action. Quite the contrary, it is in everyone's interest to accelerate action in order to minimise negative impacts on all," Figueres said.
She also said finding areas of agreement in Tianjin was vital to restoring trust in the UN process and laying the foundations for success in Cancun, Mexico.
"A concrete outcome in Cancun is urgently needed to restore the faith in the abilities of parties to take the process forward," she said.
The European Union's chief delegate, Artur Runge-Metzger, also warned public trust in the UN process would dissipate completely if there was no progress in Tianjin and Cancun.
"If Cancun does not produce such a solid outcome, taking the fight against climate change forward, then I think it risks becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the rest of the world," he told reporters.
The phenomenal economic growth of China has seen it overtake the United States as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in recent years, and its role in the process was under a renewed spotlight as host of the talks.
After being blamed by many in the developed world for derailing the Copenhagen talks, China insisted it wanted to foster a spirit of cooperation at this week's conference.
"As the host country, China is hoping that we can contribute positively to advancing the climate change negotiation process," China's lead climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, told reporters.
However Xie indicated China would hold firm on some of the key disputes with the United States and other developed nations that have led to the gridlock, such as allowing outside verification of Chinese progress towards targets.
"We must note that it (verification)... must not interfere with a developing country's sovereignty," Xie said.
Beyond the Ice Age
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