Kristin Palitza speaks to ANN-KATHRIN SCHNEIDER, climate change coordinator of the German public body for environmental protection BUND, about the current state of the negotiations and the chances that COP17 will end with firm, binding commitments.
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 2 (IPS) – As the 17th United Nations Climate Change Summit in Durban, South Africa, moves into its second week, two key decisions are being hotly debated: Will the Green Climate Fund, which is meant to support climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries, be signed off during the conference? And, how can a second period of the Kyoto Protocol – the only international, legally-binding pact that sets carbon emission targets in industrial countries – be secured?
Ann-Kathrin Schneider, climate change coordinator of the German public body for environmental protection BUND, says Canada’s decision to leave the Kyoto Protocol is a negative signal, but does not feel that it will throw the current negotiations off course.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
Q: What key topics have emerged during the first few days of the conference?
A: The most important theme is financing. The question is how we can achieve to mobilise annually 100 billion dollars for the GCF. At the moment, it doesn’t look good. It remains unclear where the money will come from and how much will be generated by public and private channels.
Importantly, the climate fund still needs to be signed off. Our hopes that the document will be agreed upon in Durban have shrunk, because countries like the United States, South America, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela want to reopen and change the document. Egypt and Nigeria are also unhappy with the current draft.
Q: How does the European Union (EU), potentially one of the biggest financiers, position itself?
A: The EU continues to support the current draft document, but has made clear that it regards a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a mandate for a long-term, wide-ranging agreement for emission reductions that encompasses all countries as well as climate financing as a package deal. The effects of a failed GCF on this package deal remain unclear. But there are no signs from the EU that it would consider climate financing for developing countries without the GCF.
Q: How will the negotiations proceed from here?
A: The question is how much progress the delegations and their negotiators can achieve before next Monday [the second week of the summit] when the ministers will arrive, and which aspects of the negotiations are mainly regarded as political decisions. If there is too much disagreement among the delegates and they are unable to achieve anything, the future of the fund will be decided on the next, the political level. Supporters of the climate fund should have created more momentum to ensure it doesn’t come that far.
Q: What is the likelihood of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol being signed off?
A: I am forcefully positive. Most discussions about the length of a second period revolve around the decision if a second period should be five or eight years long. I interpret this as a sign that it’s about the “how”, not the “if”. The EU says, however, that it will only commit to a second commitment period if all countries agree to a mandate for an encompassing, legally-binding agreement by 2020 at the latest. This would include emerging economies. That’s an important decision that needs to be made here, in Durban.
Q: Will it be enough to set firm emission reduction targets for all countries only from 2020 onwards?
A: No, by 2020 it will be too late. The danger is that climate change will worsen until then and that reduction targets will then need to be much stricter than today’s assessments to avoid an increase in temperature by more than two degrees Celsius.
Q: What emission reduction targets can we expect for a second Kyoto period?
A: That’s still in the open. No new reduction targets have been set – neither for Kyoto, nor for the mandate that is expected to come into play later. At the moment, delegates are discussing the legalities of the protocol, but they mustn’t neglect the protocol’s content. If they set weak reduction targets in Durban, it won’t be enough. In that case, we won’t be able to stem climate change.
Q: What are strategies to calculate the new emission targets?
A: That’s the big question: who has to reduce emissions by how much? There are two options how to calculate this. There is the “bottom-up” approach, where countries can decide for themselves how many emissions they want to reduce. That strategy is supported by the US, for example. Then there is the “top-down” approach that is based on scientifically drawn up global carbon budgets that define reduction plans for each country.
Q: How would a “top-down” strategy be calculated?
A: One suggestion is to calculate a reduction plan based on per capita emissions. The US emits, for example, 18 tonnes of carbon per capita per year, Germany nine tonnes, Sweden six tonnes, China five tonnes and India only one tonne. Scientists say we need to keep emissions around two tonnes per capita per year to keep up the much talked about two degree Celsius border.
Q: Would India not need to set any reduction targets in that case?
A: No, they would have to, because one mustn’t ignore industrial development. In industrialised nations, the trend is going towards emission reduction, while emerging economies experience incredible growth and with that come increasing emissions. If you want to make long-term plans, you have to consider such trends.
Q: What does the EU, the biggest Kyoto supporter, expect from emerging economies?
A: The EU hopes for a positive signal from emerging economies that they will in future be willing to sign a mandate for an international, binding protocol, even if they are not prepared to sign immediately. Emerging economies have never officially promised to participate in emission reductions based on their development level.
Q: What impact is Canada’s potential resignation from the Kyoto-Protocol likely to have on a second commitment period?
A: Canada’s decision is a negative signal, but I don’t have the feeling that it will throw the current negotiations off course. Like Japan and Russia, Canada already announced its unwillingness to recommit to Kyoto before the start of the summit. However, if Canada abandons Kyoto, pressure on emerging economies will increase.
Q: How are the negotiations around a second commitment period of the Kyoto-Protocol likely to proceed from here?
A: There are three options. The worst is that the decision will be postponed until the next climate change summit. The second best option is that a vague, political decision is taken, without detailing emission reductions. The best option would be that, through changes of the rules of the protocol here in Durban, a second period with concrete emission reduction targets is decided upon. Right now, there is still hope that the best option is possible.