By Kristin Palitza
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 2 (IPS) – A second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol is being “very seriously considered”, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) who praised governments for doing “good work” as the first week of the 17th United Nations climate change summit drew to an end.
Figueres expects the week to close with good progress on the negotiation package that will define ways to adapt to climate change – an instrument very important for developing countries, especially Africa, which will suffer most from climate change.
There has also been further clarification on the “how” of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, she noted.
Figueres’ statements sent a positive signal, and gave some hope that hurdles surrounding the Kyoto Protocol and Green Climate Fund can still be overcome.
This second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire at the end of 2012, was being considered even though the European Union (EU) had placed “certain conditions” on a successful agreement. “We have discussed this week what those conditions are and how they can be met. By Tuesday, we will bring all options on the table and converge on a limited number of options,” the executive secretary said.
Moreover, the EU proposed new amendments to the Kyoto Protocol this week to make it easier to increase countries’ “level of ambition” to reduce greenhouse gases. “We try to up the pledges, not only for the small numbers of countries that are included in the Kyoto Protocol already, but also for all other countries,” explained Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission’s lead negotiator.
The EU is pressing for firm commitments from all countries not only in the distant future, but starting today, he added: “It is not only important to think about a legally binding framework in the mid- and long-term, but also important to do something before then, because current pledges are not sufficient to keep temperature increases under two degrees Celsius.”
Scientists say global average temperatures may not rise by more than two degrees Celsius if the world wants to put a stop to further climate change.
Runge-Metzger argued countries had no more excuses not to reduce their carbon emissions, as there are numerous solutions available to help close the gap between the current level of carbon emissions and emission reduction targets, such as renewable energies and energy efficiency mechanisms, among others. “It is technologically feasible and economically affordable,” he said.
The argument that those new technologies are too costly and stand in the way of economic growth and development, urgently needed in some countries, did not hold, the chief negotiator said. The EU had already proven “that we can do both at the same time: grow economy and reduce emissions. Our emissions have been going down in EU, and are now lower than they were in 1990, while our gross domestic product has been going up,” said Runge-Metzger.
The bloc also remains clearly opposed to a “bottom-up” approach to emission reductions, where countries are allowed to set targets themselves. “A ‘free for all’ is not going to work. Some countries are pushing [for this],” Runge-Metzger said in reference to the U.S. “What is important is to get enough political will next week to go against the ‘free for all’ approach.”
Instead, the EU is forcefully demanding clear timelines for setting new carbon emission reduction targets. “We need a new legally binding instrument with a clear perspective that will eventually have all emitters on board, [so that we can address] a hundred percent of emissions globally. The Kyoto Protocol on its own is not sufficient,” said EU negotiator and head of the Polish delegation Tomasz Chruszczow.
“The idea [of including all emitters into binding reduction targets] is getting a lot of traction with other parties,” he believed. “They can see that waiting until 2015 or longer to start discussing next steps [to reduce carbon emissions] would simply be too late.”
The EU also wants to introduce a midterm review of the Kyoto Protocol targets, which would take place between 2013 and 2015, so that parties’ progress can be assessed more frequently. “The current protocol has a terribly complicated amendment procedure. We propose an easier way so that it doesn’t take years and years until [changes] take effect. We want to make it as easy as possible for countries to raise the level of their ambitions,” explained Runge-Metzger.
To what degree the EU’s demands on the Kyoto Protocol and other discussion points will be met will only become apparent next week, when ministers and heads of state will arrive at the conference and take the discussions to the next – the political – level.