The two-week long United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change intercession meeting ended on Friday in Bonn, Germany. The talks revealed major issues that are hindering the progression of outcomes achieved in Cancun. The Parties are not in agreement about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, how to operationalize the agreements reached in Cancun, and international climate finance. Parties will attempt to resolve these issues in the lead up to the next major UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa in November.
Here is a news roundup of what happened in Bonn.
Two weeks of tense global climate talks wrapped up on Friday, with countries insisting they had made progress on technical issues but accepting they were still nowhere near agreement in the three key areas of finance, greenhouse gas emission cuts and the future of the Kyoto protocol.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, defended the UN against charges by non-governmental groups that the talks were painfully slow and convoluted, saying the economic crisis in Europe and elsewhere was making it harder to make progress.
“Climate [change talks] are the most important negotiations the world has ever seen, but governments, business and civil society cannot solve it [climate] in one meeting. Countries are being very creative, exploring all options,” she said at the close of the conference in Bonn.
Figueres warned that there could be a gap between commitment periods for the Kyoto Protocol, the only global treaty legally binding rich countries to cut emissions — the first phase of which ends in 2012. “Governments can double their efforts and come forward with middle ground solutions and options which are acceptable to all sides,” she said.
Non-governmental groups said they were deeply frustrated at the snail pace of negotiations and whole days lost while countries debated the agenda of the talks.
Poor nations pressed the European Union at U.N. climate talks on Thursday to salvage the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for cutting greenhouse gas emissions as Japan reiterated opposition to an extension beyond 2012.
Japan insisted on Thursday that it will not make new greenhouse gas cuts under Kyoto beyond 2012 despite what it called rumors that it would relent in Durban.
Russia and Canada have also said they will not agree to a new period of Kyoto, meaning it could die in 2102 as the only legally binding U.N. plan for cutting emissions blamed for causing more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.
Delegates say that developing nations hope at least to get the EU and other Kyoto backers such as Australia, Switzerland and Norway to agree to keep Kyoto alive beyond 2012. The EU says it will extend Kyoto only if all major economies set curbs.
Japan, Russia and Canada want a new, broader pact with curbs for both rich and poor nations, including the United States that did not ratify the 1997 Kyoto pact. Kyoto countries now account for only 27 percent of world emissions, Yamada said.
Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said it was in the EU’s strategic interests to preserve Kyoto to show that it could lead on climate change on a world stage more often dominated by Washington or Beijing.
“If Kyoto dies, EU countries are aware that they will get a fair share of the blame. That is concentrating minds. Saving Kyoto is in the EU’s self-interest to show that it can lead on multilateral action,” he said.
UN talks struggling to forge a response to global warming must salvage the embattled Kyoto Protocol or risk collapse, the head of a 43-nation bloc of island nations said Friday.
“Some countries are willing to commit to a second commitment period,” said Grenada’s Dessima Williams, chair of the the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
“It is not anywhere near the full coverage that will be needed,” she told AFP on the sidelines of a negotiating session of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ending Friday.
“However, it is either that or the complete collapse of the system.”
AOSIS nations are likely to be hit first and hardest by climate change, especially rising sea levels and more intense storms, scientists say. Impacts are already being felt, said Williams.
“We are seeing more extreme weather events, loss of water supply, fish stocks are not looking good, coral reefs are in trouble, and climate scientists are predicting a very intense hurricane season,” she said.
Despite, or perhaps because, of these impacts, the AOSIS bloc has shown an increasing willingness to find a middle ground in the complex, multi-track climate talks.
Even if a scaled-down second round of Kyoto commitments — including the European Union and a few other small nations — only covers 12 or 13 percent of global CO2 emissions, the Protocol should be preserved, Williams insisted.
“It is better to have that than having nothing at all,” she said. “The value of the Kyoto Protocol is that it helps us to collect data, and to observe and to monitor.”
At the same time, she added, rich nations must “raise their level of ambition.”
World political leaders must step into climate negotiations in the next few months to unlock disputes over reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the U.N.’s top climate official said Friday.
Wrapping up a two-week negotiating session among more than 180 countries, Christiana Figueres said it will take “high-level political attention” to resolve mutual demands between industrial countries treaty-bound to reduce carbon emissions and countries who have now have no legal obligations on fighting global warming.
South Africa, which hosts the next major climate conference in Durban beginning Nov. 28, has called for two ministerial meetings and a meeting of heads of government on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.
Brazil, China, India and other emerging nations said greenhouse-gas output from developed nations “should peak without any delay no later than 2012.”
Developed countries should cut emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 under an extended Kyoto Protocol, the countries said in a submission yesterday to the United Nations- overseen climate talks in Bonn. “They should have peaked before 2000,” according to the document.
The submission highlights disagreement between emerging nations and developed countries in the climate-protection talks. The U.S. has said it’s unwilling to join an extended Kyoto Protocol unless emerging nations also participate.
Developing countries also sought easier access to technology related to climate protection. “Specific and urgent measures shall be taken by developed country parties to enhance the development and transfer of technologies at different stages of the technology cycle covered by intellectual property rights to developing country parties.”
The emerging nations sought softer rules for themselves, partly because they have not contributed as much of the heat- trapping gases in the atmosphere.
“The time frame for peaking will be much longer in developing countries in order to ensure sufficient time for and equitable access to sustainable development, and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries.”
Uncertainty about the fate of the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for slowing global warming has sapped investment in the Clean Development Mechanism but there are no plans to kill the CDM, the United Nations said on Friday.
Last month, the World Bank said investment in the CDM, which allows developed nations to invest in carbon-cutting projects in poor nations, fell in 2010 to just a fifth of its record high in 2007 of $7.4 billion.
Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference on the final day of U.N. talks from June 6–17 that a “lull in the market” was understandable due to the uncertainty about Kyoto.
“There is no discussion about killing the market,” she added.
The Bonn talks made little progress on unlocking a dispute about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which binds 40 industrialized nations to cut emissions in a first period to 2012. The CDM is a mechanism under Kyoto.
“What we hear from countries is their interest in expanding, further improving and enhancing the market mechanisms available to them under the next chapter of the regime, whatever that is going to be,” she said.
“What the discussion is around the CDM is whether they will keep it as is — and then create some other market mechanisms that work in tandem with the CDM — or whether the improvements that they are looking for will be internalized into the CDM,” she said.
Global warming could be slowed down if governments cleaned up what’s known as black carbon from industry and cooking fires, 50 of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists said on Tuesday.
Major air pollutants such as black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone mostly result from the soot and gases formed by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, wood and biomass. These pollutants only remain in the atmosphere for a few days or weeks, and are mostly seen by governments as important for health and air quality.
But the UN environment programme, working with the World Meteorological Organisation, said these “short-lived climate forcers” contribute as much as 25–30% to present-day climate change emissions, and if controlled would also provide dramatic health and farming benefits
According to the UNEP report, launched on Tuesday in Bonn at the resumed UN climate talks, ground-level ozone and black carbon together could be reducing crop yields by as much as 50m tonnes a year and be leading to 2.5 million premature human deaths a year from poor outdoor air quality.
The authors suggested that, if adopted, tighter controls on the pollutants could cut 0.5C off rising temperatures.
In six months’ time the scientists hope to report on which countries could do most and how much it might cost. “For many of the measures, especially the methane … there are cost savings,” Johan Kuylenstierna of the Stockholm Environment Institute, told Reuters. It is possible that governments will seek an outline agreement to reduce the global emissions of the pollutants at the Rio+20 earth summit next June.
— Tripp Brockway