Global Trends by
Monday 11 April
New battle lines
in climate talks
The global climate
talks resumed last week in Bangkok, with
developing countries challenging the rich nations to state once and
for all whether they want to stay inside or quit the Kyoto Protocol. New battle lines were drawn
for the future of the climate regime.
The United Nations’
climate talks resumed last week in Bangkok.
There was a lot of drama, with developing countries throwing a challenge
to the developed countries to proclaim themselves once and for all,
whether they intend to continue with the Kyoto Protocol or to kill it.
This North-South battle
had already been boiling the whole of last year. Especially at the
big climate conference in Cancun in December, when Japan
brazenly stated it had no intention to join a second period of the protocol,
after its first period expires in 2012.
Japan’s announcement had evoked outrage
among the developing countries, especially since the country had hosted
the meeting that created the Kyoto Protocol. The KP is the main pillar
of the UN Climate Convention; all the developed countries (except the
have made legal commitments under it to cut their emissions of Greenhouse
Eliminate the KP, and
there is little or no teeth left in the Convention to hold the rich
countries to their emission-reduction pledges.
India reminded an official workshop
last week that the developed counties have put three quarters of the
Greenhouse Gases (that are causing the climate crisis) in the atmosphere,
they are still over-polluting, and they should bear the main responsibility
for global gas reductions.
Japan’s Cancun pronouncement
was the important tip of the iceberg because several others (including
Russia, Canada, Australia) are also known to want to abandon the KP,
while the US being a non-member seems delighted at their wanting to
But the cracks in the
global climate regime were papered over at the end of Cancun to prevent
another high-profile breakdown, after the traumatic Copenhagen conference the year before.
Last week when the
talks resumed in Bangkok,
the developing countries got their act together and challenged the developed
countries which are members of the KP whether they are committed to
a second period.
The tiny island state of Tuvalu (which will be covered over
by rising sea waters when climate change takes effect) made the first
challenge. It called on Parties who wished to continue with the KP to
stand up and say so; those who do not do so should leave the room.
Its call for a political decision to be made explicit
now was supported by an overwhelming number of developing countries,
including the least developed countries, small island states, the African
and Arab Groups, China, the Philippines, Bolivia and Saudi Arabia.
The Group of 77 and China
led by Argentina
said made the adoption of the KP’s second period was the key to success
at the next Climate Conference in South
Africa this December. It was a political
imperative and also a legal obligation that must be met.
Many developing countries stressed there was no
point in going round in circles on technical issues and it was time
for a political decision. The Philippines said the KP was “in an
intensive care unit and that instead of being given life-giving oxygen,
its respirators are connected to a tank of carbon-dioxide”.
The countries also said that if there was no commitment
to a second KP period, there was little point in negotiating other issues
in the parallel working group on long-term cooperative action (LCA).
Under this group, developed countries have put developing countries
under intense pressure to take emission-reduction actions.
The Arab Group said that agreeing on KP’s second
period was sine qua non for agreement under the LCA track.
This view was echoed by the African Group.
At a subsequent session, European countries (backed
by Australia and New Zealand) stated there were conditions
to be met for them to commit to a second period. These included adequate
actions by other countries and agreements on rules on how their pledges
should take account of land use and market mechanisms.
There was a deafening silence from Japan and Russia, the two countries explicitly
opposed to joining a KP second period.
Commenting on the conditions,
Saudi Arabia asked
how KP Parties could force actions from non-members before committing
to the second period. This seemed an indirect way of not accepting a
China said if the pre-conditions are
aimed at enhancing the levels of emissions reduction, then the technical
aspects can be discussed. But if the pre-condition is linked to whether
or not to undertake a second commitment period, there was no room for
Meanwhile the LCA group
spent the whole week in intense battling over the agenda for this year’s
work. Some developed countries led by the US wanted only an agenda to follow up on the Cancun conference decisions.
But the G77 and China argued that
this would be a selective choice of issues. The mandate of negotiations
was still the Bali Action Plan, adopted in Bali
in December 2007, which launched the group and the current negotiations.
Behind the battle of
agendas is really a fight over what the final deal will contain. Many
key issues (such as the adequacy of emission-reduction commitments of
all developed counties, including the US; the need to avoid trade protection on climate
grounds; the issue of patents and technology transfer) were not resolved
in Cancun and should be included in
the talks, according to the developing countries.
Not so, says the other
side. What was explicitly stated in Cancun for follow-up work are the only agenda items.
At the last hours in
Bangkok, the developing
countries won the agenda battle. It was agreed that the Bali Action
Plan would remain as the framework for the future talks.
It is an indication
of the state of disarray and confusion of the global climate talks,
that it took a week of tumultuous negotiations to persuade some developed
countries to agree to retain the original mandate and agenda that launched
the negotiations in the first place.
There is a deep divide
on how to go about solving what is arguably the Number One problem in
the world. That makes the climate talks so painful to watch. The silver
lining is that the developing countries got their act together again,
after suffering a blow to their interests in Cancun.
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