News Roundup from Bonn Climate Talks: The Future of the Kyoto Protocol is in Peril

This week, a two-week long intercession meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference began in Bonn, Germany. Reports from Bonn indicate that there is a divide among the Parties about what needs to be accomplished in the run-up to the next major climate summit in Durban, South Africa at the end of this year.

Some aim to work towards the implementation of the agreements made in Cancun in December 2010—specifically, operationalizing the new institutions agreed upon in Cancun, such as the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism, and the Adaptation Framework. Others are more focused on making progress toward a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Here is a news roundup of what has been happening thus far:

UN Climate Negotiations Kick Off in Bonn

Yesterday, a two-week long round of UN climate negotiations, lasting from June 6 to June 17, 2011, kicked off in Bonn, Germany. The talks will prepare the way for the COP 17, which takes place November 28, 2011 to December 9, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.

The work before the group is clear. Last week, the International Energy Agency announced that emissions continue to increase unabated. Emissions released in 2010 were the highest in history, despite the economic recession. The report stated that the “prospect of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius is getting bleaker.”

UN member nations have gathered to discuss the following: 1. to set emissions reductions for developed and developing nations; 2. to secure funding and technology to help developing nations adapt to climate change (for example, by building barriers to guard against rising sea levels); and 3. to decide how emissions reductions will be measured, reported and verified.

Climate Talks Priority Is to Extend Kyoto Protocol, G77’s President Says

The priority of United Nations climate talks this year should be to extend the world’s only treaty that caps greenhouse-gas emissions beyond 2012, the lead spokesman for 130 developing nations and China said.

Envoys from more than 190 countries need to agree on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol during talks that start Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa, Argentina’s ambassador to the UN, Jorge Arguello, said today in an interview at the latest round of discussions in Bonn, Germany. Argentina holds the rotating presidency of the G77.

The stance by more than half the world’s countries puts them at odds with nations such as Japan, Russia and Canada, who have all said they won’t accept new binding targets under Kyoto unless all major economies are bound. That includes China, now the biggest emitter, and the U.S., which never ratified Kyoto.

Under Kyoto’s first enforcement period, 35 nations and the European Union committed to reduce emissions by a collective 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Christiana Figueres, the UN official who stewards the treaty talks, said two days ago that a gap is likely between the first and second round of commitments because of the lag time needed to amend the Kyoto Protocol and ratify it in all member nations.

Kyoto may be empty shell by 2012 as nations opt out

The future of the Kyoto Protocol is in peril and the global compact could end up being an empty shell by 2012.

Major developed countries including Japan, Russia and Canada have refused to be part of the protocol in its second phase and to commit targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under it. Europe has also changed the goalposts. It is now suggesting that it would not sign on to the protocol unless emerging economies, including India and China, take strong targets as well under a new deal.

Under the first phase of Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries had emission reduction targets running up to 2012. The sole exception was the US which steadfastly refused to sign it. Under the protocol, developing countries had no such commitments.

The impasse has for the first time led the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat to warn that ‘a real risk’ now exists that a “regulatory gap” could result post-2012. In other words, she has implied while the protocol would continue to exist, it would become an empty shell with no targets.

Poor countries say rich evade new climate pledges

Developing countries said Friday that rich nations are refusing to negotiate an extension of their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, charging that they sought to “maintain their privileges and levels of consumption” at the expense of the poor.

Two-week climate negotiations among 183 nations in Bonn, Germany, which reached their halfway point Friday, were stalled for three days this week in a fight over the agenda.

The agenda squabble was more than procedural, however. It reflected deeper questions involving the objectives at the next major climate conference in Durban, South Africa, beginning Nov. 28, and underscored the continued rift between blocs of nations.

Developing countries, which have no obligations under the Kyoto deal, want the commitments by these bound under Kyoto to be extended for a second period, with deeper targets. Wealthy countries want big emerging economies like China and India to accept parallel legal obligations, at least to lower the trajectory of their emissions growth.

Island states hint at climate talks compromise

Small island states, at risk from rising seas due to climate change, hinted on Tuesday at a compromise in order to kick-start U.N. talks on reaching a binding deal to curb global warming.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which represents 43 countries, said it could consider pledges on emissions cuts made voluntarily by rich nations if they were made into legally-binding targets.

The group has consistently demanded that industrialized countries toughen pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions they made at a climate conference last year in Cancun, Mexico.

AOSIS has led calls among developing nations for ambitious targets, demanding that world temperatures rise by no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Many experts say that target is already out of reach.

Analysts say the pledges made so far would lead to a roughly 4 degrees C rise in average global temperatures.

World Bank says sub-Saharan Africa faces development challenges posed by climate change

Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a development challenge caused by climate change which could cost it 17 billion U.S. dollars a year, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Andrew Steer said on Wednesday.

According to a statement from the bank’s offices in Nairobi, Steer warned that the figure was a conservative estimate of likely adaptation costs because it is based on the assumption of rapid action to address climate change, ensuring that average global temperature increases stay below 2-degrees centigrade. “At present we are sadly not on track to limit global temperature increase to 2 degrees. Without more urgent action, the costs to Africa for adapting to more floods, droughts, heat, rising sea level, and shifting disease patterns would be sharply higher,” he said.

Releasing a series of World Bank country studies on the economics of adaptation to climate change, Steer said climate change jeopardizes Africa’s hard-won development gains. “We need to use the next UN climate conference in Durban to make Africa’s agenda much more central to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.”

Bonn climate talks: Developing nations question funding commitment

The UN climate talks re-opened in Bonn on Monday with developing countries increasingly resentful that money promised 18 months ago to help them adapt to climate change has not been made available.

New research by the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows that the world’s 21 developed countries and the European commission have publicly announced pledges of $28bn in “fast-track” money after a commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009. While this is close to the $30bn promised for the 2010-2012 period, only around $12bn has actually been budgeted for by countries and as little as around 30% has been delivered in some cases.

Confusion and secrecy surrounds the source of the funds. According to the WRI, many countries may be “double counting” their offers. “The fast-start pledges of the United Kingdom and the United States also include their 2008 commitments to the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) of roughly $1.4bn and $2bn respectively,” says the report.

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