Next Kyoto Protocol phase in place from start of 2013, predicts UN climate chief


UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has confidently predicted that the conference in Doha, Qatar, “will produce a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, as of January 1st, 2013”.

Kyoto, the only international legally binding agreement on global warming, is due to expire on December 31st, but the European Union, Australia, Norway and other countries have pledged to renew it even without the participation of Canada, Japan and Russia.

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told a press briefing yesterday that Europe “will make an immediate commitment on the second commitment period in 28 days from now” – in all probability for a further seven years, until 2020.

“We have a track record in taking legally binding commitments but also delivering on them. We all know that too few countries will be making that commitment, so we need to focus on what the remaining countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions are doing.”

Pointing fingers

Although Ms Hedegaard said it “won’t bring us a lot further pointing fingers at each other”, she pointedly noted that Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions had fallen by 18 per cent since 1990, while emissions in the US had gone up by 10.8 per cent in the same period. She also noted that China’s emissions had reached 6.6 tonnes per person, compared to the EU’s 7.3 tonnes and the US figure of 17.2 tonnes. “We have a common obligation to try to be more ambitious, because we are moving very, very fast in the wrong direction.”

She reiterated that the EU’s offer to increase its level of ambition from 20 per cent to 30 per cent cuts in emissions by 2020 was “conditional on others doing more”. Nonetheless, the EU had cut emissions by 18 per cent and would easily exceed the 20 per cent target.

Ms Hedegaard said she expected that other delegations in Doha would use the day-long “ministerial roundtable” tomorrow to say what they were prepared to do in the interim, such as reducing fossil fuel subsidies, which exceeded $500 billion (€383 billion) last year.

Todd Stern, President Barack Obama’s climate envoy, agreed that phasing out these subsidies “makes a tremendous amount of sense”. He told the press that only about 20 per cent of the total went to poor people and there were “other ways to take care of them”.

Mr Stern said any future agreement on foot of the Durban Platform “has to be applicable to all countries in the world of the 2020s. It needs to be inclusive, drawing in all countries of the world, and needs to be based on real-world considerations, not on ideology.”

Ms Figueres said this would entail a “complete transformation of economic structure of the world that can’t happen overnight”. She was concerned that “we’re very far behind where science says we need to be”, but hopeful Doha would be a step in the right direction.