Thailand joins developing countries' campaign for renewal of Kyoto deal
AS FLOODS finally receded in its southern provinces, Thailand joined other developing countries in calling for agreement to be reached on a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol before it runs out at the end of next year.
The country’s minister for natural resources and environment, Suwit Khunkitti, said the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, such as the recent flooding, provided “clear evidence” of climate change.
He made the call as delegates representing 174 countries were engaged in hard bargaining at the latest round of UN climate talks, to see if agreement could be reached on a work plan in the run-up to December’s climate summit in Durban.
Thailand’s support for a renewal of Kyoto is in line with the demands of 134 developing countries in the G77 group as well as China, which all argue that it remains the only legally binding treaty aimed at cutting the emissions blamed for global warming.
Even more insistent is the 43-member alliance of vulnerable small-island states. Speaking on their behalf, Grenada ambassador Dessima Williams queried whether rich countries really had the appetite to strengthen their pledges on emissions cuts.
“Now is not the time for some parties to point fingers at others, or the time to call for comparable effort from others, in response to insufficient ambition of their own,” she said. “A downward spiral of this nature is shameful when millions of lives are at stake.”
Ian Fry, a delegate from the Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, which is one of those most at risk, said: “We are concerned that we are going around in circles and making no progress. We are concerned that we have no guarantee that there will be a Kyoto Protocol at the end of this year.”
His exasperation reflected an increasing level of impatience, which seems likely to be resolved only on the basis of continuing with the UN’s “twin track” approach of considering both Kyoto and wider commitments under the climate-change convention.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has made it clear that the progress made at last December’s climate conference in Cancún “can only become an important step forward for the climate if there’s a responsible and clear way ahead on the Kyoto Protocol”.
Ms Figueres conceded on Monday that there will now be a gap between the expiry of the protocol and the adoption of any new international treaty: “Governments have to face the fact that a gap in this effort looks increasingly impossible to avoid.”
Several of the Kyoto parties firmly oppose extending the protocol because it does not include China and the US – the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – and are pressing for a new agreement that would draw them into the net.
But while US climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing has admitted that the pledged emissions cuts on the table fall “wildly short” of the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees, the Obama administration has no appetite for a new treaty.
The Umbrella Group – a loose coalition comprising Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the US – merely said its members were “all committed to be part of a balanced, environmentally effective and comprehensive global deal”.
Contrary to some reports, Japan has said it is not seeking an exemption from its Kyoto obligations to cut emissions because it may have to rely more on fossil fuels in the aftermath of the earthquake-induced Fukushima nuclear safety crisis.
Referring to the continuing row over whether Kyoto has a future, chief EU negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said earlier this week: “What in the end can only bridge that gap is a common desire by all the parties to stay below 2 degrees of global warming.”
WHAT'S ON THE TABLE AT BANGKOK SUMMIT
DELEGATES IN Bangkok this week, meeting under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, are teasing out how to build on the interim deal reached at last December’s conference in Cancún, Mexico, in advance of this year’s climate summit in Durban.
LONG-TERM ACTION ON EMISSIONS:
In Cancún, governments recognised that “deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required according to science . . . so as to hold the increase in global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
The agreement called on developed nations to take the lead in curbing greenhouse gases since historically they have emitted most. Developing countries would also take “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (known as Namas) to curb their emissions.
When backed by foreign aid, Namas would be subject to international “measurement, reporting and verification” – something the US insisted on.
When funded domestically, actions will be checked locally, in line with guidelines to be developed by the UN.
The Cancún agreement sidestepped a long-running dispute about extending the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which almost 40 developed countries are legally obliged to cut emissions by an average of 5 per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
Developing countries say the rich nations must act first and extend the pact. However Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new commitment period under Kyoto, saying any new deal has to include all major emitters – notably China and the US.
The Cancún deal said governments should “collectively aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss, according to national circumstances”, to help avoid climate change. This is expected to involve some level of compensation to rainforest nations.
HELPING DEVELOPING NATIONS:
Under the Cancún deal, a framework is meant to help developing countries adapt to droughts, floods and rising sea levels. Measures would include better planning, weather forecasting and risk management, and perhaps a climate insurance facility.
At the acrimonious and chaotic Copenhagen summit in 2009, developed countries pledged $30 billion in “fast start” aid for 2010-2012, as a first step to a goal of providing $100 billion a year in aid from 2020 onwards from public and private sources.
This was translated in Cancún into a “green climate fund” to help channel aid to developing countries. A first meeting to design the fund was be held in March, but disagreements over who should sit on the committee meant it had to be postponed until the end of this month.
– (Compiled by Reuters, edited by Frank McDonald)