Still possible to curb warming but time short: Ban Ki-moon

The UN urged nations Tuesday to seize a shrinking opportunity to tame global warming as ministers negotiated in Lima for a new world pact to slash carbon emissions.

Lima: The UN urged nations Tuesday to seize a shrinking opportunity to tame global warming as ministers negotiated in Lima for a new world pact to slash carbon emissions.

"There is still a chance to stay within the internationally-agreed ceiling," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said, referring to the goal of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

"But the window of opportunity is fast narrowing."

The UN secretary general opened a high-level segment of the December 1-12 talks, with ministers bringing much-needed political muscle to the final four days of a fraught process.

Parties remain far apart on key aspects of a deal they have vowed to ink in Paris in December next year and implement from 2020.

"I am deeply concerned that our collective action does not match our common responsibilities," Ban told delegates.

"This is not the time for tinkering, it`s time for transformation."

Draft texts were unveiled Monday that encapsulate a broad variety of views on how best to slash Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

These documents will form the basis for political negotiations among ministers, starting Tuesday with the tough issue of climate finance for developing world.

On Wednesday will be talks on the even thornier issue of "differentiation" -- how to divide the burden for carbon cuts between rich and poor countries.

Ministers will also hold bilateral discussions with Ban, who nailed climate change to the top of the agenda in September by hosting a special summit in New York.

The Lima talks have two main tasks: drafting a negotiating outline for the Paris deal and reaching agreement on the format for carbon-curbing pledges that nations are to submit from the first quarter of next year.

But negotiators do not see eye to eye on some basic questions.

Among them is climate financing and adaptation help for the developing world, and how to assess whether national pledges, combined, will place the world on target for the two degrees Celsius goal.US envoy Todd Stern said Monday that the text on national pledges remains "the subject of a lot of disagreement."

A key division is the concept of differentiation.

Developing countries want rich nations to bear a bigger share of the burden for curbing soaring Earth-warming emissions, which requires a costly shift from cheap and abundant fossil fuels to less polluting energy sources.

But developed nations like the United States and Australia point the finger at major developing emitters like China and India that rely heavily on highly polluting fossil fuels -- coal, oil and gas -- to power their rapid growth.

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Tuesday accused negotiators of "hypocrisy" and of being led by the interests of profit and capitalism.

"It`s not a dialogue among equals... we`ve been moved like pawns in a game," he said. "Nothing has changed in the last 30 years except for the warnings of scientists."

Poor countries and small island states at high risk of climate change-induced sea level rise want guarantees of finance and assistance for adaptation enshrined in the new agreement.

But the European Union (EU) and other developed states say the focus must be on mitigation -- jargon for emissions cuts.

Scientists say the world is on target for up to 4.8 C warming this century -- a recipe for sea-level rise, floods, droughts, desertification and damage from storms.

"Can you imagine what the world would look like, even with the lowest projection?" Enele Sopoaga, prime minister of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, asked delegates.

"I believe it will be Hell on Earth," he said.

"The great Italian poet Dante once wrote: `the darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis`. These words... are no less relevant today."

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said history would judge negotiators not only by how many tonnes of greenhouse gases were cut, "but also by whether we were able to protect the most vulnerable, to alleviate poverty and to create a future with prosperity for all.

"That future is yours to create."