by Martin Khor
Monday 11 October
in peril after Bangkok
climate talks ended badly as trust evaporated after rich countries abandoned
the Kyoto Protocol, with developing nations
crying “foul” and warning the Copenhagen
meeting was in serious peril.
In an astonishing
and unfortunate turn of events, the Bangkok
climate talks of the last fortnight ended last Friday by taking steps
backwards from progress towards this December's Copenhagen
By now, the developed
countries should have come up with numbers on how much they commit to
cut their Greenhouse Gas emissions after 2012, when the first commitment
period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) ends, so that a second period can
begin in 2013.
But in Bangkok, the developed countries
signalled they are quite unwilling to do a second period under the KP
and, worse, that they are likely to abandon the Protocol altogether.
This has sent shock
waves around the world, and raised the prospect of utter failure in
Not only is Copenhagen's success in jeopardy,
but the international climate regime itself, a turn of events that was
hardly imagined before Bangkok.
The Group of 77
has reacted furiously to the apparent ditching of the protocol. “We
call on the developed countries that are members of the Kyoto Protocol
to stand firmly in the KP and to engage seriously in negotiations for
a second commitment period,” it said in a statement on 9 October.
“We will also consider
the Copenhagen meeting to be
a disastrous failure if there is no outcome for the commitments of developed
countries for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.”
and America must
quickly find a solution that combines their deep emissions cut with
fairness towards developing countries, to avert a disaster in Copenhagen,
said Ambassador Lumumba D'Aping of Sudan, who chairs the G77.
The KP had firmly
bound the developed countries internationally to commitments to cut
their emissions. It was agreed their emissions would be cut by 5% collectively
by 2012 (compared to 1990) in the first period.
The new cut after
2012 was expected to bring the emissions level down by 25 to 40 per
cent by 2020 (compared to 1990). And the talks on this have gone on
for three years.
One problem is that
the United States
pulled out of the KP some years ago. The Bali climate meeting in December
2007 envisaged that if the US did
not return to the KP, it could be dealt with as a special case by binding
its commitment inside the Climate Convention, of which it is a member.
Instead of working
out this plan, it appears that the other developed countries now want
to jump ship from the Kyoto Protocol to join the US in a new agreement.
new agreement (with the US
seen as the main architect) looks inferior to Kyoto. Countries would inscribe their national
climate plans in an appendix to the agreement. They would later report
on progress made, which would then be reviewed by other countries.
This is a kind of
“pledge and review” approach, and much more lenient than the KP model
with an internationally-set overall target for developed countries,
with specific and binding targets for each country, and a compliance
The developing countries
see this as a lowering of the nature of the developed nations' commitments,
from internationally binding to nationally determined. “This is an
attempt for a great escape,” remarked China's Ambassador Yu Qingtai caustically
at the end of the Kyoto Protocol meeting on 9 October.
The G77 and China's
demand is for the developed countries which are KP members to commit
to their cuts inside the KP, while the US
would make its commitment for a comparable emission cut in a special
decision inside the Convention. This was after all envisaged in Bali.
Another worrying trend in the talks in Bangkok was the attempt to confuse
or do away with the clear distinction between the “mitigation commitments”
of developed countries (involving binding and deep emission cuts) and
the “mitigation actions” of developing countries (which are not expected
to undertake absolute emission cuts, but would curb emissions growth,
through actions enabled by finance and technology from rich nations).
The developed countries
seem to be engaging in a concerted plan to reduce their own commitments
while pushing their burden onto developing countries, which are asked
to take on more than their fair share.
The US delegation chief, Jonathan Pershing, even said
that “advanced developing countries” should take on quantified emission
reductions, something that was not agreed nor even asked of them at
By wanting it all
their own way, the rich nations may be jeopardising Copenhagen.
“The train to Copenhagen
which is on two tracks is going to be derailed,” warned Su
delegation head. “The KP track is about to be destroyed and its debris
and fragmented pieces lie on the Convention track. The train to Copenhagen
is in peril. Don't kill the KP and don't derail our Copenhagen
On 10 October, the
Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said the Bangkok talks had broken
down and there was a “trust barrier” between the developed and developing
world. He blamed the EU for abandoning the basic structure of Kyoto
Protocol and said it was up to the EU to bridge the lack of trust after
“The trust that
has broken should be repaired quickly,” Ramesh said. He warned against
what he called the “mistake of the Doha
round” of trade talks, which aimed for all or nothing and could still
not come to a conclusion.
At Bangkok, other issues such
as financial support and technology transfer to developing countries
were also discussed, but little progress was made, except for re-organising
of the texts. The gaps in positions were still very wide.
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