Asia-Pacific, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Environment, Headlines

CLIMATE CHANGE: Developing Countries Gain a Step

Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Apr 4 2008 (IPS) - Negotiators from the developing world won a significant first round at talks here to shape a new pact to curb global warming. Key among them was the backing to make green-friendly technology and financial assistance priority in a programme leading to the pact to be endorsed in 2009.

The final document that came out of the week-long U.N. climate change talks in Bangkok, which ended in the early hours on Saturday, confirmed that the next round of discussions in Bonn in June would take up these two concerns. They were flagged as pivotal by the Group of 77 (G-77) and China.

“We are not fully satisfied with the work programme, but it is important that we got something to work on and discuss for long-term action,” Su Wei, deputy leader of the Chinese delegation to the talks told reporters. “There are many differences and views here. We have to narrow the differences to reach a common understanding.”

But the G-77, a 130-member bloc of developing countries, was up against stiff resistance from the industrialised nations, the world’s major emitters of carbon dioxide since the 19th century industrial revolution. The latter were lobbying for other climate change-related issues to get top billing in a programme of work during the rest of the year.

Japan was singled out as a villain by environmental groups for trying to push the conference to discuss a new set of measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions. This measure called on all countries to calculate GhG emissions by sector followed by pledges to reduce pollutants – rather than go by previously agreed national targets.

“Japan attempted tampering with results of a previous high-level U.N. meeting in Bali last December where developing countries agreed to undertake emission reductions in their own countries,” the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) said in a statement. “By proposing even more constraints on developing countries, Japan now threatened to undermine the trust and cooperation needed to move forward.”

One Japanese activist was more blunt. “Japan was stupid in making developing countries feel threatened by its push for a sectoral, bottom-up approach to set emission targets,” Yurika Ayukawa of WWF Japan told IPS. “This is the influence of Japanese industries lobbying the government. They are against absolute reduction targets because it affects their economies.”

“What we witnessed here was a real struggle as to whose interests were to be given a priority – the developed or the developing world,” Meena Raman, chair of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), said in an interview. “If the work programme is to include a role for developing countries, technology and finance need to be given priority.”

The Bangkok meeting, which attracted over 1,100 climate change delegates from 163 countries, was the first follow-up to a major U.N. conference on climate change that was held in Bali in December last year. At that meeting, a deal was struck between the developing and developed world to offer a common long-term response to curb global warming beginning in 2013.

The G-77 agreed to take national actions to reduce GhG emissions while pursuing development. The developed world was expected to help developing countries adapt to climate change through additional funds and to invest in green-friendly technologies in the South.

The Bangkok meeting was to take the Bali Action Plan (BAP) forward by identifying an agenda for a series of workshop to flesh out specific details of commitments from the developing and developed world. Besides the meeting in Bonn, two other workshops have been scheduled: one in Ghana in August, and the other in Poland in December.

Japan’s call for a sectoral approach is due to be taken up in Ghana, while a European Union proposal for a “shared vision for long-term cooperative action” is billed for the meeting in Poland.

“The meetings will be given equal weight. We are also willing to discuss the sectoral issue at the proper time,” Surya Sethi from the Indian delegation told IPS.

This week’s meeting was part of a process that began with the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where 192 countries agreed that the world had to respond to a significantly warming planet. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was added to the UNFCCC to give more teeth to the push to curb GhG emissions. Under the protocol, 37 industrialised countries and the European Union agreed to slash their GhG emissions by 5 percent by 2012 relative to 1990 levels.

The new talks aim to produce a successor to the Kyoto Protocol beginning 2013. That environmental treaty is to be endorsed at a UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

But by how much the developed world is pledging to cut GhG emissions after the Kyoto Protocol lapses in 2012 is uncertain. “We are a little concerned about the discussions here, because the commitment of quantified reduction targets by the (developed countries) for the second period was not addressed,” South African delegate Alf Wills told the final plenary session.

“The Bangkok meeting was the first step to start operationalising the Bali Action Plan. It came close to undermining what had been agreed in Bali,” said Raman, of FoEI.

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