The comments fuel a dispute over the future of the only international treaty limiting greenhouse gases, which envoys from more than 190 nations are discussing this week in Durban, South Africa. The pact caps fossil fuel emissions through 2012 and is the linchpin of efforts to curb global warming.
Asked whether he could envision any agreement at the talks in Durban, South Africa, without industrial nations signing up to a new round of reductions under Kyoto, Brazil’s envoy said, “no.” China’s lead negotiator, Su Wei, last night said failing to extend the pact would place the international system of climate rules in “peril.”
“A second commitment period is a crucial outcome,” Andre Correa do Lago, Brazil’s chief envoy at the talks, said in an interview today in Durban. “It would be wasting a unique opportunity to create new momentum in these negotiations.”
China and Brazil are key to the talks because they’re among the quickest-growing polluters and along with other developing nations have no limits under the Kyoto treaty, which requires industrial nations to pare fossil fuel emissions 5 percent through 2012. The European Union said it wouldn’t agree to extend Kyoto beyond next year without a pledge from the biggest developing nations when they’d join in on the cuts.
While Su said China is open to negotiating with the EU, his comments show little common ground on how to maintain momentum on the issue. The issue over Kyoto nearly derailed last year’s talks and makes an outcome in Durban more complicated.
“Durban is really a fork-in-the-road moment,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview. “Do we go back to the pre- Kyoto days when countries did whatever they wanted and were under no pressure to raise their level of ambition to what the science demands?”
The EU wants to link new commitments it would take under Kyoto with a road map that would lead to all nations agreeing on a binding deal by 2015 that would take effect by 2020. China yesterday said that suggestion backtracks on the plan agreed in 2007 that envisioned Kyoto’s extension.
‘Shifting the Goal’
“If we cannot get a decision for the future of the second commitment period, the whole international system on climate change will be placed in peril,” said China’s Su. “We think the EU is just shifting the goal posts to another place.”
Speaking for the EU today, Artur Runge-Metzger said the landscape of the negotiations has changed since 2007 because delegates have failed to approve a new treaty.
“The goal posts have been shifted already, and not by the EU,” said Runge-Metzger, who is the 27-nation bloc’s head of climate strategy. He said the 2007 plan envisioned a new legally-binding treaty to supplement Kyoto by now, and that “has not materialized.”
Brazil’s Correa do Lago said he could accept discussions on the EU’s road map proposal if it was supported by the U.S., which refused to ratify the Kyoto pact.
“No other party wants to get involved in some kind of negotiation that will end up with absence of the United States,” Correa do Lago said. “We want something that is effective rather than something that simply by using a certain expression -- legally binding -- becomes satisfactory.”
Japan last year nearly derailed the talks by saying it wouldn’t sign up for new commitments under Kyoto. Canada and Russia since have joined in that camp. China and India have become two of the top three polluters in the world since the pact was adopted in 1997.
“The world has changed so much since the Kyoto Protocol’s inception,” Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said at a briefing in Tokyo today. “Developing countries are increasing their economic presence significantly. There is no doubt China has become an important player in the world. What we are aiming is to reduce emissions in the world as a whole.”
The U.S. signed, but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, citing the lack of binding goals for developing countries. U.S. lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing told reporters two days ago it “doesn’t make a great deal of sense” to agree to pursue a legally-binding pact before the content of that deal is known.
Brazil, China and other developing nations made non-binding pledges to reduce emissions at the UN talks in Cancun last year, where developed nations also made pledges that are voluntary. Su said it’s too early to say whether China will be willing to accept legally binding commitments after 2020.
“Everything needs a plan,” Grenada’s envoy, Dessima Williams, who speaks for the Alliance of Small Island States, a coalition of island nations at risk of disappearing as sea levels rise, said in an interview in Durban. “But a road map with a date that takes us away from the urgency of decision making in Durban? No.”
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