G77 and China insists continuation of Kyoto Protocol not up for negotiation

Deadlock again mars latest round of talks in Panama as scientists warn world is ‘very far away’ from temperature target

The last round of UN climate change negotiations ahead of this year’s main conference in Durban is likely to end in deadlock, after the G77 and China group of developing countries told diplomats gathering in Panama that it remains fiercely opposed to any attempt to phase out the Kyoto Protocol.

A group of influential industrialised countries, including Japan, Russia, Canada and the US, have said they will not sign up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, and are instead calling for a new international treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

However, in an indication that diplomats are no closer to ending the deadlock over the future of Kyoto, Ambassador Jorge Argüello of Argentina, chairman of the G77 and China group, issued an unequivocal statement today insisting that the group of over 130 developing nations will not countenance an end to the Kyoto agreement.

“Much as some rich countries like to repeat that discussing scenarios that they oppose is not ‘realistic’ or ‘practical’, they must recognise that there is no point in insisting on a solution outside the Kyoto Protocol when 132 parties have strongly declared they can only accept a second commitment period as a meaningful outcome,” he said.

“I think most parties understand by now that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is key for any positive outcome we can expect in Durban.”

Argüello added that he had informed the incoming president of COP17, South Africa’s Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, of the group’s “firm commitment” to extending the Kyoto Protocol.

“The second commitment period is paramount for the G77 and China. We are ready to negotiate and to produce actual texts in both tracks, but only on such a basis that respects our position as well as others,” he said.

“The elements are in place. We now have to translate this into an express political commitment from the developed countries.”

The deadlock over the future of the Kyoto Protocol has prompted an increasingly frantic search for an alternative plan. The EU is leading proposals for two parallel treaties that extend the Kyoto Protocol for those covered by the agreement, while also imposing binding emissions targets on countries that currently face no solid emissions reduction commitments.

There have also been proposals for a temporary treaty that extends Kyoto until 2015 in order to maintain the legal foundations for carbon trading schemes, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, while allowing more time for a compromise deal to be reached.

Meanwhile, hopes remain that the Panama meeting can deliver progress on other aspects of the negotiations, including plans to set up a global green investment fund for developing countries and extend the carbon markets to support forest protection projects.

The meeting also saw the release of the latest Climate Action Tracker report, which warned that the world is continuing to fall well short of stated UN targets for cutting emissions.

The report analysed the performance of the world’s largest economies against their stated emissions reductions targets and concluded that, while several remain on track to meet their goals, economic growth meant that overall emissions are continuing to rise at a rapid rate.

For example, the report said that China was likely to exceed its stated target of cutting emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 as a result of its massive rollout of low carbon technologies. But it warned that faster than expected economic growth meant that Chinese emissions were still likely to be higher than anticipated by the end of the decade.

Similarly, the report predicted that greenhouse gas emissions from Brazil could be “significantly higher” than previously expected, while also warning that the US will struggle to meet President Obama’s stated goal of cutting emissions by 17 per cent against 2005 levels by 2020.

Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, the NGO behind the study, told reporters that the world was “very, very far away” from meeting the agreed UN target of limiting temperature rises by the end of the century to two degrees Centigrade.

He warned that, based on current modelling, temperatures are on track to rise by “well over” three degrees, which “could easily result in massive damage to vulnerable ecosystems from one end of the planet to another”.

“The overall picture shows us that a higher than expected economic growth rate brings with it higher emissions, and the sooner the switch is made to cleaner energy sources the better, in order to avoid locking in climate‐damaging energy,” he said.

“It also illustrates the risks and uncertainties of using business as usual scenarios as the basis for emission reduction pledges.”

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