BONN, Germany -- UN climate talks have hit a stumbling block that some delegates say poses a serious challenge to their already slow-moving attempt to craft a global response to climate change.
As the latest negotiation session ended here yesterday, one track of the talks was paralyzed by a request by Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to review the decision-making procedure in the two-decade-long United Nations process.
Decisions in the climate discussions are supposed to be made by consensus -- but it's not clear what that means in practice. While many agree the decision-making procedure needs clarification, they worry that the issue could block the talks at a time when urgent action is needed.
At several climate conferences, after overnight debates with endless interventions, decisions have been gaveled through despite protests from individual countries.
That happened in Qatar last year to Russia, whose objections to a package of decisions including an extension of the 1997 emissions treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol were ignored.
Russia was outraged, and backed by Ukraine and Belarus, it used the session in Bonn to call for a discussion on the rules of procedure.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said yesterday that she found it ironic that even though all governments agreed that the decision-making procedure needs to be discussed, they "couldn't figure out, how do they get to what they want to do?"
That's a familiar story in the climate talks, where procedural disputes have often overshadowed the goal of saving the world from rising seas, more extreme weather events and other potentially catastrophic effects of climate change.
Science shows they're falling short: emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are growing.