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Does Kyoto have a Future?



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With only five negotiating days left before the critical climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen in December, just how much can be achieved? Tiempo editors Sarah Granich and Mick Kelly report.

Members of the G77 group of developing nations walked out of the Bangkok Climate Change Talks in October in protest at moves to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a completely new agreement in the post-2012 climate regime. "Do we keep totally separate regimes for the two constituencies, or do we start building what the United States calls a continuum that includes both - that's the big question," said Claire Parker, consultant to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The G77 fears that developed countries who are party to the Kyoto Protocol might not agree to new targets for the second commitment period of the Protocol, Alf Wills, spokesman for South Africa, told Reuters. "The G77 rejects the notion and proposal to collapse or 'cut and paste the good parts of the Kyoto Protocol' (one wonders what the bad parts are) into a new single legal instrument under the Convention," he said.

The European Union (EU) is concerned that the Kyoto framework does not permit the inclusion of developing nations in a single global agreement. "We can all continue to argue in favour of maintaining Kyoto. We think that's not enough. We need to have a wider participation. We're not convinced we will get this into the Kyoto Protocol as we know it," stated European Commission delegate Karl Falkenberg. "We are not killing Kyoto," commented Anders Turesson, chair of the EU negotiating working group. "This is trying to build something bigger and better than Kyoto."

The United States came in for criticism over its failure to commit to a tough emissions target for the year 2020. "I think that they are in an uncomfortable position since they cannot put on the table any figures unless the Congress process is clearer," commented Fernando Tudela from Mexico. "They are increasingly identified as a stumbling block for the negotiations and it's up to them to dispel this perception and to show the real leadership we're expecting from them," he continued. There will be no commitment to an emissions target by the United States Congress before the end of this year and, without this domestic commitment, the United States negotiators' hands are tied.

Further progress was made in Bangkok on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), which now includes conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (termed REDD-plus). "REDD-plus is capable of delivering durable emissions reductions," said Carole Saint-Laurent, forest policy advisor for the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "However, it must be agreed that countries will be rewarded as they move from preparation of REDD-plus actions to verified performance for putting in place safeguards for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and good governance arrangements, including the participation of stakeholders."

Following the Bangkok session, there were are signs that expectations for the Copenhagen negotiations are being narrowed to avoid disappointment and discouragement. "There isn’t sufficient time to get the whole thing done," Yvo de Boer, head of the climate treaty secretariat said. "But I hope it will go well beyond simply a declaration of principles. The form I would like it to take is the groundwork for a ratifiable agreement next year."

There is concern that forcing the pace might result in a treaty that is too weak to be effective or else so tough that it would not be ratified by some countries and could not be enforced. Key issues yet to be resolved include emissions targets for the industrialized nations, how developing countries will be brought into a global agreement and the longstanding matter of financial support for developing nations. It is possible that, alongside a high-level political commitment in Copenhagen to halt and reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, there will be a new deadline set for final agreement some time in 2010.

Gordon Brown, British prime minister, has called on his peers for representation at the highest level to break the impasse. I've said I'll go to Copenhagen, and I'm encouraging them to make the same commitment." Barack Obama, United States president, is expected to visit Oslo, Norway, during December to receive his Nobel prize and there is speculation that he might make a sidetrip to Copenhagen.

Further information

The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary provides hourly coverage of climate news. For detailed discussion of all climate negotiating meetings, visit Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

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Tiempo Climate Newswatch
Updated: April 12th 2013