Cross-posted from Bloomberg
By Daniel Ten Kate and Alex Morales
“What they’re saying is they will not participate in a second commitment period” of Kyoto, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres told reporters today in Bangkok, where a week of climate treaty negotiations are concluding. Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
Japan and Russia reject new targets under the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty, whose current goals expire in 2012, the top United Nations climate diplomat said.
“What they’re saying is they will not participate in a second commitment period” of Kyoto, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres told reporters today in Bangkok as a week of climate talks concluded. “They have not said, ‘none of you can do a second commitment period.’”
Japan and Russia both argued at the UN’s last round of treaty negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, that taking on new emissions reduction goals under the 1997 Kyoto deal would be pointless if the two biggest emitters, the U.S. and China, don’t have binding targets. The U.S. never ratified the treaty, which doesn’t set enforceable goals for developing nations.
The absence of Japan and Russia, added to that of the U.S., China and India, would leave the Kyoto Protocol without targets for the five biggest emitters of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Divisions between richer and poorer nations made for slow progress in Bangkok, with 3-1/2 days spent negotiating the agenda, U.S. envoy Jonathan Pershing said.
“Progress has been slow and we, along with many other countries, are concerned,” Pershing said. “We are not prepared to go forward with a binding obligation for ourselves which would not apply to the other major economies.”
Major emitters such as China and India contend that they shouldn’t be given legally binding emissions targets because industrialized nations should act first.
Non-binding emissions goals that nations have pledged for 2020 leave developing countries carrying out more emissions reductions than developed ones, Bolivian envoy Pablo Solon said. That leaves the planet “very far away” from stopping temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since industrialization began, he said.
“Where we are now after Cancun is in a scenario of 4 degrees Celsius, and that is a scenario of catastrophe,” Solon told reporters. Decisions made in the Mexican resort “were very good for diplomacy, for multilateralism, but for climate change they weren’t very good.”
Negotiators have conducted the talks on two tracks: one to extend the Kyoto Protocol and another to set out what the U.S. and developing countries will do to fight climate change. In Cancun, delegates agreed to a package of measures aimed at protecting forests and channeling aid and technology to poorer nations to help them cope with the effects of global warming and reduce their own greenhouse-gas output.
The ideal outcome would be a single, legally-binding instrument, though that looks like it won’t be possible, said European Commission negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger, speaking on behalf of the 27 European Union members. He said nations can’t expect to continue after 2012 with the Kyoto Protocol covering just 10 percent of global emissions and no other instruments binding other countries.
“We want to fight climate change but we need the other countries to come along with us,” Runge-Metzger said. “That requires a legal certainty that they are going to do this.”
Delays in extending Kyoto threaten the future size of the Clean Development Mechanism, the UN pollution offset trading program that’s worth about $2.7 billion a year in new offsets. Still, the demand in the market is fueled mainly by European nations that plan to use it even if new commitments aren’t agreed to under the Kyoto treaty.
Countries still need to decide on when global greenhouse output should peak and what mid-term and long-term global emissions goals to adopt, the UN’s Figueres said. They also need to decide whether the next round of commitments will be legally binding, she said.
‘Sense of Predictability’
She said that while a binding treaty would provide a “certain sense of predictability,” it’s up to envoys to decide the format of any new deal.
In Bangkok, delegates discussed the institutions needed to carry out the decisions made last December in Mexico and laid the groundwork for talks at the end of the year in Durban, South Africa, where Bolivia’s Solon said countries need to agree to new legally-binding measures to fight climate change.
“In Cancun, we threw a bucket of water at a forest on fire. We cannot throw a new bucket of water to this forest that is on fire,” Solon said. “We really have to contain the fire.”
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