The European Union hopes to win China’s agreement on a road map to a global greenhouse gas- lowering treaty after the world’s second-biggest economy said a rift over post-2012 goals risk the collapse of climate talks.
The EU wants the largest emitters to agree by 2015 on a binding pact to be enacted in 2020 at the latest and offered in exchange an extension to its carbon-reduction goals under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol. The bloc said it hopes to find “common ground” with China, which objects to any binding goals for poorer countries and increased pressure on industrialized nations to adopt further emissions-reduction targets at a summit that started this week in Durban, South Africa.
“There’s room for compromise and we hope there will be willingness,” Isaac Valero-Ladron, an EU climate spokesman, said by phone yesterday from Brussels. “China and other countries say that they are not ready to adopt binding targets now. We then want them to tell us in Durban when they will be ready to do so. That will allow us to extend our Kyoto goals and agree the details of the new treaty by 2015.”
The future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only treaty that imposes binding carbon-reduction goals on almost 40 developed nations, is a central issue in the UN climate talks that have stalled amid differences between richer and poorer countries. China, the world’s biggest emitter, said this week it’s essential for industrial nations to sign up for another round of emissions reductions under the pact, whose limits expire next year. Developing countries have no binding commitments under the protocol.
No U.S. Ratification
While the EU is the biggest group of nations still open to a continuation of Kyoto after Japan, Canada and Russia declared they won’t adopt further goals, the bloc has stressed that its unilateral adoption of new internationally-binding targets without any commitments on future action by other countries won’t be enough to prevent global warming. The U.S. has never ratified the protocol.
A failure to extend the Kyoto pollution limits by developed nations would mean “the whole international system on climate change will be placed in peril,” China’s lead negotiator Su Wei said Nov. 29 in an interview with Bloomberg and two other news organizations.
While he said that China is “willing to consider accommodating the concerns of the EU so as to assure a real, legally binding second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol,” his comments showed little common ground on how to maintain momentum on the issue.
Extend Kyoto Targets?
A potential declaration by China and other major economies on the timeline for a new global climate treaty would pave the way for Europe to extend its Kyoto goals until 2020 or at least adopt a political declaration that it’s willing to do so, according to two EU diplomats who declined to be named because the negotiations are confidential.
Poland, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of this year, ruled out the possibility of approving voluntary emission-reduction commitments by major emitters in the coming years. A binding agreement in force by 2020 is necessary to prevent global warming, Environment Minister Marcin Korolec said yesterday in an interview.
The world has to keep the increase in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avoid more heat waves, flooding and intense storms, according to UN scientists.
‘Map a Way’
“We need to map a way to 2 degrees and voluntary declarations won’t take us there,” Korolec said in a phone interview from Warsaw. “If the world is serious about climate protection, there’s no other option than to act and we have a chance to decide about details in Durban.”
The EU already has an internal target of reducing greenhouse gases by 20 percent in 2020 compared with 1990 levels and is on track to achieve it. Submitting this goal as its so-called second-period Kyoto commitment would be a political decision, the bloc’s regulatory arm has said.
The EU proposal "contains some of the elements needed for a satisfactory outcome,’’ Ambassador Dessima Williams of Grenada, who speaks on behalf of the 42-member Alliance of Small Island States, said in a Nov. 29 interview.
"Everything needs a plan,’’ she said. “But a road map with a date that takes us away from the urgency of decision-making in Durban, no. We want a Durban mandate from Durban, and that must take a decision here and now that in 2012, a year from now, we will have a firm commitment to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol."