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Climate Regulatory Gap Could Result After 2012 Kyoto Expiration

BONN, Jun 14 2011 (IPS) - The growing awareness that the ongoing U.N. climate change talks here won’t deliver a treaty to extend the international governance regime on reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, is driving environmental experts to foster alternative solutions to global warming.

The current negotiations in Bonn, in which thousands of delegates from around the world have been participating since early June, are supposed to set the stage for yet another global climate change summit in Durban, South Africa next December.

The Durban summit is supposed to ratify a new, international, binding regime on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in industrialised countries, and setup a financial plan to pay for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries.

This new regime is expected to come into force in 2013, after the present Kyoto Protocol measures expire in 2012.

But the debates in Bonn have produced little success so far. During three days at the beginning of the talks, members of two of crucial working groups were unable to reach a basic agreement on the meeting’s agenda.

By Jun. 13, many delegates had had enough of procedural quarrels. Jorge Argüello, Argentina’s head delegate at the talks, and chairman of the Group of 77, which represents 134 developing countries, had to remind his colleagues that the Bonn negotiations are not a “procedural meeting”. “This is a highly political summit,” Argüello told the assembly.

Argüello insisted that the Bonn talks, which will continue until Jun. 17, must determine “what remains on the negotiating table” towards the U.N. climate change summit, to take place in Durban.

“We cannot leave Bonn empty-handed,” Argüello warned.

“The Kyoto Protocol is the priority,” Argüello said. “Envoys from more than 190 countries need to agree on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol… in Durban.”

But it seems that the delegates may indeed leave Bonn empty handed.

Christina Figueres, head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which hosts the Bonn talks, warned that “a real risk” exists that a “regulatory gap” could result after 2012.

“It would be a mistake to put all our eggs in the post Kyoto basket,” Sam Bickersteth, director of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), told IPS.

“While it is true that we need an international agreement, that leaves no country out, to reduce emissions and cope with climate change, it is also true that after the disappointment of the U.N. climate conference of Copenhagen [Dec. 2009], numerous countries and agencies have realised that we cannot continue to wait for such an agreement, and are already putting in place alternative solutions to reduce emissions locally,” Bickersteth said.

The CDKN is a British-Dutch-funded programme, created to help developing countries tackle the challenges posed by climate change.

As examples of such local initiatives, Bickersteth referred to programmes in Rwanda to stop the country’s high dependency on imported, non-organic inputs for agriculture. “We at the CDKN are helping Rwanda to launch a programme of production of local organic inputs, to reduce this import dependency and at the same time reduce emissions,” he explained.

Other programmes, such as the promotion of renewable energy sources in Kenya by improving efficiency in hydraulic generation of electricity in regional dams, target both improving economic development chances and reducing emissions, Bickersteth said.

Environmental experts insist that the U.N. climate change negotiation process has come to a stalemate because of delegations refusals to accept an international binding regime of emissions reduction and financial support of developing countries to tackle global warming.

These issues have been on the Bonn agenda for two years. In June 2009, Yvo de Boer, then head of the UNFCCC, described such issues as the “essentials” to an international regime after the Kyoto protocol.

Two years and numerous international conferences on climate change later, the “hard nuts to crack”, as de Boer called these issues, remain unresolved.

For instance, Ilana Solomon, climate expert at the Johannesburg-based development NGO ActionAid, openly accused the U.S. government of “refusing to discuss any concrete ways” of financing the Green Climate Fund, intended to help poor countries tackle climate change.

Participating in the present negotiations in Bonn, Solomon said that this fund “is becoming an empty vault”.

Despite earlier promises to support the Green Climate Fund, “the U.S. government now says that it is not prepared to talk about how to generate that finance within the ongoing U.N. process,” Solomon explained.

The worries go beyond the shaky preparations for the Durban meeting. There is also concern about the obvious failure of mechanisms put in place so far to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), released just ahead of the Bann talks, confirmed that greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2010.

“Energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions in 2010 were the highest in history,” the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website. The report said that emissions had fallen in 2009, due to the global economic crisis. But in 2010 emissions jumped by almost five percent from the previous record year, 2008, to 30.6 gigatonnes.

Such an increase confirms that measures put into practice within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol have failed so far, and that tougher actions to cut emissions – especially in industrialised countries, responsible for the large chunk of emissions – are crucial to limit the rise of global temperatures to just two Celsius degrees by the year 2050.

This limit is an international agreed target of the post Kyoto actions, and stems from scientific evidence that implies that an increase of global temperatures beyond the two degrees would lead to severe climatic impacts – including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction.

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