Russia blamed for lack of progress at climate talks in Bonn

Latest talks aim to pave way for global agreement by end of 2015

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin: Russia holds huge amounts of carbon credits due to the collapse of its economy in the 1990s. Photograph: Alexei Nikolskyi

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin: Russia holds huge amounts of carbon credits due to the collapse of its economy in the 1990s. Photograph: Alexei Nikolskyi

 

Russia has won the Climate Action Network’s “Fossil of the Week” award after being accused of blocking progress during the first five days of a two-week session of UN climate talks in Bonn aimed at paving the way for a global agreement by the end of 2015.

Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace International, said valuable negotiating time was being lost because of Moscow’s insistence that the rules on agreeing laws in the UN climate process be discussed – and all efforts at compromise had so far been blocked.

“It’s in everybody’s interest that the rules of the game are respected, but frankly, the Russians broke the rules first by pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol and by not taking any climate action even though they are a major emitter,” Ms Kosonen said.

The effect of Russia’s actions in Bonn was to block the opening of workshops to help developing countries to prepare and implement emissions’ reduction targets and to assist them in applying forest-related emission reduction efforts more effectively.

The latest round of talks is taking place not long after the world crossed the threshold of 400 parts per million (ppm) level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – 50 ppm above what scientists suggest is safe and significantly higher than pre-industrial levels.

Extreme weather
It is also happening against the backdrop of extreme weather events, such as the mile-wide tornado that ripped through Oklahoma last month, and the start of a scientific review of progress towards the goal of stabilising the rise in temperatures at 2 degrees.

Scientists told delegates from 175 countries this goal was still achievable, but it was clear there remains a huge gulf between the actions governments have committed to and what the world needs prevent a “worst-case climate change scenario”.

Meena Raman, of the Third World Network, said: “The gap between current pollution reduction pledges of rich countries and what science and historical responsibility requires is large. For the Bonn talks to be called a success, we will have to see those targets go up.”

She warned that if the global agreement due to be concluded in 2015, to take effect in 2020, was “made-up of every country doing as it pleases with no allocation of fair shares of effort, as proposed by the US, then it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.”

Moscow’s actions seem to stem from anger over the way its objections to the outcome of last December’s full-scale UN climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, which removed tonnes of potentially valuable carbon emission credits from the system, were ignored.

Russia and other former Soviet states hold vast quantities of carbon credits, due to the collapse of their economies in the 1990s.

Hot air
These credits, known as “hot air” in climate change circles, could undermine the environmental integrity of any deal if they were kept in play.

However, despite a virtual collapse of the EU’s emissions trading system and a crash in values for carbon-offset projects approved under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, some countries still favour a “market-based” approach to tackling climate change.

An effective global deal to cut emissions would leave a bubble of “unburnable carbon” in fossil fuel plants that couldn’t be used.

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