Divisions have again emerged on the first few days of the latest round of international climate change talks in Bonn, with the EU and groups of developing countries clashing over the future of the controversial Kyoto protocol.
Under the terms of the Durban Platform agreed at last year’s UN climate summit, the EU said it would sign on to an extension of the Kyoto protocol before it lapses at the end of this year in return for an agreement from all nations that a new binding treaty will be finalised by 2015 and enacted by 2020.
The fortnight-long Bonn talks are intended to develop a timetable for agreeing the new treaty and finalise details for how the so-called “Kyoto 2” extension will work for the countries that have agreed to sign up to the treaty.
However, negotiators are divided over how long the extended Kyoto protocol should operate, with developing countries insisting the treaty should continue to be enforced over five-year commitment periods, and the EU expressing its preference for an eight-year commitment period that would allow it to be replaced by the new international treaty in 2020.
Negotiators for the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Alliance for Small Island States issued a joint statement earlier this week warning that an eight-year commitment would allow industrialised nations to delay action to curb emissions. They also hinted that failure to agree to a five-year period could undermine the alliance between the EU and poorer nations, which provided an effective negotiating bloc at the Durban Summit.
“The environmental integrity of the Kyoto protocol… depends on having a five-year commitment period to avoid locking in inadequate level of ambition,” said the statement, arguing that longer term targets tend to be ignored by governments.
Writing on Twitter, EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the EU’s preference for an eight-year period was simply intended as a means of smoothing the transition between Kyoto and the new treaty that should come into force in 2020.
“In Durban, EU declared willingness for both 5 & 8-year CP2. A 8-year period will avoid gap btw end CP2 & start of new regime,” she wrote. “So just for the record: the 8-year CP2 is the result of the parties’ decision to start new regime in 2020.”
Her comments were echoed by Artur Runge-Metzger, the head of climate strategy at the European Commission, who told reporters that he remained confident an agreement could be reached at the annual UN climate summit in Doha, Qatar at the end of the year.
“We want to move in the same direction, even if in terms of instruments we might have some different views,” he said. “By Doha, I’m sure we will have sorted them out. And hopefully we can show to the world that we have been able to close that ambition gap.”
A number of large emitters, including the US, Japan, Russia, and Canada, have signalled they will not sign up to an extension of Kyoto, while large emerging economies will only sign up to an agreement that does not impose binding emission reduction targets on them.
As such critics have noted that only around 15 per cent of global emissions will be covered by any extended treaty.
However, the finalisation of the extension to Kyoto will be crucial for large numbers of businesses as it will further codify emission reduction targets for the EU and other signatory countries, while also extending the legal foundations for UN-backed carbon trading schemes such as the Clean Development Mechanism.
In addition, the first two days of talks in Bonn have seen continued negotiations over the UN’s proposed Green Climate Fund, which is expected to provide up to $100bn of climate funding a year from 2020.
UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres insisted it was critical the Bonn talks made further progress on how the funds will be raised post-2020 and how funding will be directed to poorer countries in the year’s running up to 2020.
It had been hoped that a parallel meeting of EU finance ministers taking place earlier this week would provide some clarification on funding commitments from 2013 onwards, but the talks delivered only a vague pledge to “work in a constructive manner towards the identification of a path for scaling up climate finance from 2013 to 2020”.
Developing countries are fearful that with industrialised nations facing increasingly severe budget deficits there could be a funding gap for green projects after the current commitment to provide up to $30bn of “fast-track” climate funding lapses in 2013.
However, Hedegaard hinted the EU could continue to provide funding by diverting the revenue raised from its controversial levy on aviation emissions to help fund climate initiatives in developing countries.