A bloc of 42 island nations said the European Union is backtracking on agreements made at the last round of United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa, threatening the environmental integrity of an eventual treaty.
The 27-nation EU joined with the Alliance of Small Island States and other developing nations in Durban to push for a road map leading to a new climate treaty drawing in all nations. Now the Europeans are pulling back from some commitments, according to a statement e-mailed today by the island bloc.
The EU in Durban agreed to accept new emissions targets after 2012, while working to increase the global ambition of greenhouse gas cuts. EU environment ministers on March 12 opted for an eight-year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that ends in 2020, three years longer than the island nations want. At the same time, the low-lying nations are seeking deeper emissions cuts to contain temperature gains and sea-level rises.
“Regrettably, our shared concerns seemed to have diverged when our planes left South Africa,” Marlene Moses, chairwoman of the alliance and Nauru’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in the statement. “The EU is resisting elements key to the environmental integrity of the climate treaty,” she said, citing the length of Kyoto’s second commitment period and a failure to accept more ambitious mitigation targets.
The next two-week round of UN talks starts in Bonn on May 14, with the second set of Kyoto targets a key decision to be made by year-end, when the first commitment period ends. The islands seek a five-year commitment period because they say a longer one would delay action by the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, which won’t have targets under Kyoto’s next phase.
The EU in Durban said it preferred an eight-year commitment period because it has already set domestic targets for 2020, while leaving open the possibility of a five-year period. The bloc has set itself a target of reducing emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and says it’s open to increasing that to 30 percent depending on the action of other nations.
European Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said today in an interview in Brussels that it will be “very, very challenging” for the bloc to raise its target to 30 percent before the next ministerial-level talks in Doha, Qatar, in November.
Isaac Valero-Ladron, an EU climate spokesman, said by phone that the bloc has a “strong willingness” to keep working with the island nations, and that an eight-year commitment period makes sense because of existing European laws that have targets for 2020. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to fight for more ambition,” he said.
While envoys at the UN talks have set themselves a target of containing global warming since industrialization to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the island nations want a 1.5-degree cap to the temperature gain because they fear the effects, including sea-level rise, of a 2-degree increase could be too much for islands to cope.
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