EU could renew Kyoto Protocol in Durban

 

THE EU is now prepared to consider renewing the Kyoto Protocol at December’s climate summit in Durban – without the participation of the US and other developed countries, it was claimed here yesterday.

Julie-Ann Richards, of the Climate Action Network, said there were “quite positive signs that some countries will agree to a second commitment period for Kyoto” beyond the protocol’s current lifespan, which ends next year.

“The EU is making it clearer that it is prepared to consider entering into a second commitment period at Durban,” she said. Previously, its message was that there should be a single legally binding agreement on how to deal with climate change.

She also welcomed a change of position on the part of Canada and Japan, which had joined Russia in saying that they would not renew Kyoto. This followed a demand by the Alliance of Small Island States that only parties willing to extend the protocol should be involved in the negotiations.

As a result, Ms Richards said there had been a “positive flip in attitude” by Canada and Japan, which were now showing “much more enthusiasm” to participate in talks on the Kyoto track. However, she added: “We have not heard from Russia lately.”

She noted that a renewal of Kyoto – the only treaty that requires developed countries to reduce their emissions – was “the number one issue for developing countries”, and there was “a lot of behind-the-scene conversations going on about how to move it forward”.

Agreement on a legal framework was “one of the key elements we expect to get out of Durban”. Even an acknowledgement in December that such a package was needed “would be huge step forward and a big boost for this process”, she told a press briefing.

“We can’t think of a country that says they don’t want a legally binding outcome, even the US and China, although they have different views on what it should look like”, she said. However, she conceded that “we won’t get that at Durban, clearly”.

According to Ms Richards, who represents the Australian Wilderness Society, countries were also addressing the “emissions gap” between the commitments already on the table and what would be needed to limit the rise in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius.

The latest round of talks was also in “a much happier situation than last year” in relation to land use and forestry – in particular, about closing loopholes that would enable developed countries to offset their emissions, thereby failing to address the “emissions gap”.

Bolivian ambassador Pablo Solon said this gap amounted to between five and nine gigatonnes of the 14 gigatonnes of cuts that the UN Environment Programme said would be needed if there was to be any chance of achieving the 2 degrees Celsius objective.

Using graphs to make his point, Mr Solon said land use and forestry loopholes would account for 1.1 gigatonnes of the three gigatonnes of cuts pledged by developed countries – and even this was below the 3.8 gigatonnes pledged.

He also referred to proposals by Mexico and Papua New Guinea to amend consensus decision-making under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, saying this showed that they had “acted in the wrong way” at last year’s Cancún conference.

Bolivia threatened to take legal action after its objections to what it saw as the minimalist Cancún agreement were overruled. More than six months later, no such action has been pursued – and Mr Solon remains critically engaged in the latest round of talks.

But Alyssa Johl, of the Washington-based Centre for International Environmental Law, complained that there were far too many “closed door” negotiating sessions, and that civil society observers had been “shut out of several meetings” at the talks.