EU Confident on Closing CO2 ‘Ambition Gap’ as Islands Protest

The European Union said it’s confident it can iron out differences with small island states and least developed nations over pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions before climate talks in Qatar in December.

The EU, which has pledged to reduce emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, seeks an eight-year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to last through 2020, three years longer than island states want. A shorter period would “create a gap” in climate pledges, Artur Runge-Metzger, the head of climate strategy at the European Commission, said today in Bonn.

“We want to move in the same direction, even if in terms of instruments we might have some different views,” Runge-Metzger told reporters on the first day of two-week-long talks in Bonn ahead of the annual round of talks in Doha, Qatar, starting Nov. 26. “By Doha, I’m sure, we will have sorted them out. And hopefully we can show to the world that we have been able to close that ambition gap.”

The second set of Kyoto targets is one of several key decisions to be made by year-end, when the treaty’s first commitment period ends. The EU in Durban agreed to accept new emissions targets after 2012, while working to increase the global ambition of greenhouse gas cuts after warnings from the United Nations that they’re not ambitious enough to contain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Low-lying islands including Tuvalu and poorer nations such as Chad and Nepal are seeking a five-year commitment period because they say a longer one would lock in an inadequate pace of emissions reductions for longer, delaying the steeper cuts they say are necessary to stem rising temperatures that threaten to swamp their coasts with higher sea levels.

Eight-Year Commitment

If Europe insists on an eight-year Kyoto commitment period, “they will be sticking their heads in the sand instead of opening the global discussion about the need for urgent and stronger action on climate change,” Tove Ryding of Greenpeace International told reporters in Bonn today. “This will make it much easier for everyone else to do the same.”

The EU is proposing to introduce a review of reduction targets and seeks to make it easier for states to increase the ambition of pledges over time to assure other parties “that we don’t want to talk about lock-in,” Runge-Metzger said.

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