CLIMATE CHANGE: All Eyes on Cochabamba Meet

Julio Godoy

BONN, Apr 16 2010 (IPS) - International negotiations towards a new regime on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for global warming, are as deadlocked today as they were last December at the Copenhagen climate summit.

This is the conclusion most experts and analysts reached after some 2,000 delegates from 190 countries met Apr. 9-11 in the German city of Bonn, to discuss ways to advance a new international agreement on global warming.

The three-day meet was the first time delegates from practically all over the world came together after the disastrous U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen.

The official admission of failure in Bonn was given by Yvo de Boer, the departing head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). De Boer said in Bonn that the pledges made so far by industrialised countries to reduce their GHG emissions “are nowhere near adequate.”

He urged industrialised countries to “raise the level of their ambition” concerning reducing GHG emissions.

De Boer, who in February announced his quitting the UNFCCC, also dismissed any chances of reaching an agreement during the follow-up conference at Cancun, Mexico, scheduled for this December.

“Not in my wildest dreams can I imagine that we’ll reach an agreement in Cancun,” de Boer said.

In Bonn, Bolivia’s head of delegation, Pablo Solón, called the Copenhagen agreement “undemocratic.’’ Solón recalled that the paper was not agreed upon by the conference plenary session, “but was imposed by (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama.”

“We at the group of 77 (developing countries) and China were still discussing a draft, when Obama appeared in front of the television cameras and announced this paper,” Solón said.

Solón called the Copenhagen agreement “a laissez-faire paper which allows everybody to do whatever she wants. We won’t go this way,” Solón announced.

The Bolivian delegate also condemned the U.S decision to cut environmental aid in the framework of the so-called Global Climate Initiative for developing countries which opposes the Copenhagen document, including 5.5 million US dollars for Bolivia and Ecuador.

“It is the right [of the U.S. government] to take such decision, but it is not very elegant, and appears to be a penalty” imposed upon sovereign countries, Solón pointed out.

Solón also dismissed the cuts as marginal. “If the global temperatures rise four to five degrees by the end of the century, then to lose the aid from Washington does not matter,” he said.

Solón invited all developing countries to participate in the alternative summit at Cochabamba, organised by his country’s government from Apr.19 to 22. In Cochabamba “those who are already suffering from global warming will have the chance to speak out,” Solón said.

Most delegates and experts lay blame for the gloomy predictions for future climate negotiations on the refusal of the U.S. to comply with the reduction objectives set out by the Kyoto Protocol for industrialised countries.

The U.S. refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol while having the world’s highest emissions per capita. “The U.S. does not want another round of the Kyoto Protocol,” de Boer said.

Developing countries, led by the growing economies of China and India, and by the South American countries Bolivia and Ecuador, rejected the agreement reached at Copenhagen on the grounds that it failed to deliver precise reduction objectives for GHG emissions.

Instead, the Copenhagen paper only mentions the objective of maintaining the average increase of global temperatures below the limit of two degrees Celsius by the year 2050, compared to preindustrial levels.

Such divergences and the continued deadlock in the negotiations led de Boer to predict in Bonn that “two agreements [could] emerge from [the summit of] Cancun.” One, supported by the U.S. and other industrialised countries, especially Japan and Canada, and another, ratified by developing countries, including China and India.

Independent experts also called attention upon the failure of industrialised countries to meet their own pledged objectives of Kyoto.

According to a paper by the European Commission (EC) dated Mar. 9, which analyses the real emission reductions reached so far, “the current developed country pledges … imply a reduction in their emissions from around 13.2 percent by 2020 below 1990 level (for the lower end of the pledges) to around 17.8 percent (for the higher end of the pledges).”

The paper notes that these reductions are “already insufficient to meet the objective to remain below (the average rise of global temperatures) two Celsius degrees.” To reach this objective, GHG reductions in the range of 25 to 40 percent are needed from developed countries.

The EC also notes that two other weaknesses in the development of emissions “would make the real results even worse.”

These two weaknesses are the “banking of surplus emission budgets” to a new regime and the accounting rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (also called LULUCF) emissions from developed countries.

The banking of surplus emissions refers to some 10 billion tonnes of emissions in Russia and the Ukraine, which remain unused due to the restructuring of industry in the two countries. If no agreement is reached in Cancun, and the guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol are prolonged, Russia and the Ukraine could “bank” this surplus “with the effect that… cuts in emissions would be undermined,” the EC notes.

The full banking of these 10 billion tonnes of GHG into a new agreement would mean further limiting reductions by industrialised countries to 11 percent.

“The current rules under the Kyoto Protocol, if continued, would entail lowering the actual stringency of the current emission reduction pledges and imply that reductions can be claimed without additional actions, which brings no real environmental benefit,” the EC paper notes.

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