EU offers renewal of Kyoto protocol


DURBAN 2011:EUROPE HAS formally tabled an offer to renew the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change – due to expire next year – as part of a “Durban Mandate” to launch a fresh round of negotiations leading to a multilateral agreement to curb global warming.

But EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard said yesterday that “we must be assured that others will join us in the multilateral framework and when they will do so” – a pointed reference to major emitters such as the US, China, India, Canada, Japan and Russia.

The latter three have all said they will not be parties to a renewal of Kyoto, while the US remains outside the protocol and both China and India were never obliged to sign up for it in 1997 because it only applied to 35 “Annex 1” developed countries, including Ireland.

“We are here to deliver,” Ms Hedegaard told a press briefing. “As [South African] President Jacob Zuma said, we need to make a decision in Durban that focuses on the ‘now’ and on the future. But the other big economies are not ready to take part [in this process].

“We must say very clearly that countries who will not even say that they will commit in future – they take on an almost unbearable responsibility because that would have very severe consequences for all of us ... especially for vulnerable and least developed countries.

“They say they need more time to reflect, but we need to know how far they will go”, she said. “We are having a lot of bilateral meetings now, but there are not that many hours left, and we are asking the big emitters to come forward and clarify their real positions.”

Ms Hedegaard pointed out that the EU already had a 20 per cent emissions reduction target for 2020 and a low-carbon roadmap to 2050 and that these “will continue no matter what happens in Durban”.

The 20 per cent target might also be revised upwards to 30 per cent, she said.

However, if the EU could not get other major economies to at least indicate their intentions in Durban, the process of reaching a multilateral agreement “would take forever” as those involved in UN climate talks knew “everything takes longer than anyone imagines”.

Belgian Socialist MEP Jo Leinen, who chairs the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, said it was “very frustrating to see another UN conference hijacked by a ping-pong game between the US and China. This is not acceptable, and really blocking us making progress.”

Describing as “arrogant and ignorant” a Bill passed by the US Congress forbidding American airlines to participate in the EU trading scheme for aviation emissions, he said it was through such funding sources that the Green Climate Fund would not be an “empty box”.

Mr Leinen noted that this weekend’s summit in Brussels “is focused on the euro crisis while Durban is focused on the climate crisis”, saying “the financial crisis will go away, but the real climate crisis is still to come and will be the biggest crisis of the 21st century.”

The African Group insisted yesterday that not only must Kyoto be continued for “second and subsequent commitment periods ... with ambitious, science-based mitigation targets for developed country parties” but that it must be accompanied by “comparable efforts” by the US and others.

However, US climate envoy Todd Stern said he did not regard the target of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius as a “mandatory obligation, based on the science”, but merely as “an important and serious goal” to guide future action.

In his speech on Ireland’s behalf at the plenary session, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan stressed the “urgent need for a global response to climate change” and said it was now time to address difficult issues such as the legal form of a future international agreement.

He also noted that Ireland would make a further contribution of €10 million this year in “fast-start finance” to help developing countries adapt to “the worst impacts of climate change, particularly in Africa”.