Published by the CliMates Central Research Team
What's to become of the Kyoto Protocol ?
One of the key points of negotiations remains the future of the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012. It is a crucial issue for two main reasons :1) To this day, the Kyoto Protocol is the only binding agreement regarding GHG emission reductions. It is the most solid entity under the Convention and also represents a guarantee that developed and developing countries are treated differently. Only Annex I Parties to the Protocol (i.e. most developed countries except for the US) are committed to reducing emissions. In a way, it is the embodiment of the "common but differentiated responsibilities" principle, rendering the protocol's existence non-negotiable for many developing countries.
2) The KP created the flexibility mechanisms that structure international carbon trade : Clean Development Mechanisms, Joint Implementation, Assigned Amount Units… Whether and how they will be maintained after 2012 is critical for global carbon architecture (even though there exists regional or voluntary cap & trade schemes, such as the EU-ETS). As in any market, uncertainty and lack of visibility for future investment is disruptive# ; though these mechanisms are likely to continue, the exact modalities of their continuation remain unclear until political agreement is reached, as Figueres explained#.
Negotiations on this track have been deadlocked since Copenhagen. Several Annex I countries (Japan, Canada and Russia) have said they would not commit to a second period under the KP, arguing that it does not make sense without the biggest emitters. Developing countries on the other hand are strongly opposed to any mention of dropping the Protocol. Among Annex I countries, only the EU is open to a second commitment period, partly because it is on track to meet its goals (which is not the case of, say, Japan or Canada). Yet, the EU only accounts for 15% of global emissions and reaching an agreement that only covers so small of a portion of emissions would make little sense (and even less so considering the EU has binding domestic objectives of its own that it intends to meet regardless of any international agreement). Developed countries are thus looking for a way out of this deadlock, and this is not made any easier by the fact that they currently cannot strongly push their emission reductions proposal.
Stressing that it cannot go forward by itself, the EU suggests two parallel treaties, one continuing the KP and the other one binding non-Kyoto countries. Australia and Norway are proposing a new treaty that could be operational by 2015 and would commit emission reductions for all Parties. This proposal, unsurprisingly, met resistance from emerging countries, especially India.
Building upon Cancun's foundationsThe AWG-LCA pursues the Bali Action Plan's agenda after the COP renewed its mandate for a year in Cancun. Its main task is to build upon Cancun's decisions and to flesh out the mechanisms and institutions that were agreed to last year, along with other instances created in the aftermath of COP17.
Progress on the Cancun Accords can be tracked on this part of the UNFCCC website# next to the Climate Action Tracker thermometer# that shows which earth temperature negotiations are currently heading to (so far, +3.2° C).In 2011, negotiators have mainly put flesh on three elements :
- The Green Climate Fund#, which will function under the guidance of, and be accountable to, the COP and "support projects, programs, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows". It will be governed by a Green Climate Board comprised of 24 members with equal representation of developing and developed countries, administrated by a trustee (the World Bank has been invited to serve as interim trustee), and supported by an independent secretariat. A Transitional Committee# of 40 members has been appointed to design the GCF and meeting separately from the AWG sessions. The 4th round of discussions will take place from October 16th to 18th in the Cap.
The exact source of fundings, which will be a mix of public and innovative private sources, remains to be decided upon ; total will amount to $100 bn a year in 2020.
- "Fast-track finance" of $30 billion up to 2012 needs to be guaranteed as well.
Negotiations on these points are expected to meet their deadlines and should lead to conclusions in Durban.The AWG-LCA keeps working on the other Bali Action Plan items, including developed countries mitigation, developing countries NAMAs, and REDD.
Issues related to MRV (Measure, Reporting and Verification) remain problematic ; plans so far include a system of biennial reviews differing for developed and developing countries.
Last but not least, sketching the modalities of assessment and review of the 2°C target and of reconsidering a 1.5°C target, which shall take place between 2013 and 2015, is on the Durban agenda.
- the design and setting of finance, adaptation and technology mechanisms agreed upon in Cancun;
- decision on reviewing the long term goal for emission reductions;
- a clearer view on the global legal architecture that would frame these new decisions.
In a nutshell, the core of the problem lies in the relationship between actions of developed and developing countries and the distinctions to be maintained between the two groups of countries. One part of this issue relates to MRV options, the other to mitigation - and, mostly, to the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Negotiations on this track are likely to remain at a stalemate since the global political context is unlikely to allow for major shift in current positions (especially in the United States), though some progress can be noted, such as the adoption of a carbon tax in Australia after months of heated debate.
- Actu-environnement, La réunion de Panama maintient l’incertitude sur l’avenir des négociations#
- Hindustan Times, India bid to have Kyoto-like treaty faces resistance at UN#
- Climate Spectator, EU CO2 catches cold as Durban talks approach#
- Euractiv, Europe can save the Kyoto Protocol#
- Engineering News, South Africa will not deviate from African bloc in key climate talks#
- Business Green, Rich and Poor nations clash over climate finance deal#