TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Dec09/02)
03 December 2009
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are pleased to draw your attention to the latest issue of the South Bulletin (South Centre, Issue 42, 30 November 2009): Race to Save Kyoto Protocol — and Copenhagen.

The Copenhagen climate conference will face many challenges and even a possible crisis.   Will it deliver what the world expects?

This issue of South Bulletin  gives you the background to one of the most important issues - the attempt by developing countries to "save the Kyoto Protocol."

The fate of Kyoto became probably the biggest issues in the last two UNFCCC sessions before Copenhagen - held at Bangkok (October) and Barcelona (November).  

The following articles present the highlights of the two sessions, focusing on the developing countries' positions on why the Kyoto Protocol must be saved from the attempts to discard it and replace it with an "inferior" agreement:

  1. Race to Save Kyoto Protocol — and Copenhagen
  2. Divisions Remain Deep as Copenhagen Nears
  3. G77 and China’s Final Statement at Barcelona
  4. The Imperative to Continue Kyoto Protocol as Key Part of Copenhagen Outcome
  5. Poor Nations Issue 'Save Kyoto Protocol' Plea in Lead-Up to Copenhagen
  6. The Train to Copenhagen is in Peril, Don’t Derail It - China’s Speech at Climate Talks
  7. “Let’s Not Go Round In Circles” - India Spells Out Factors for Copenhagen Success
  8. Africa Demands Progress on Kyoto
  9. “Progress in making no progress” in KP talks
  10. Why We Need to Save the Kyoto Protocol
  11. Emission Targets of Developed Countries Far Too Low

The Bulletin can be downloaded in pdf form:

We reproduce the editorial below.

 Best wishes,
Third World Network

Editorial (South Bulletin Issue 42, 30 Nov 2009)


In a few days the Copenhagen climate conference will begin. By now all the preparations should have been completed - most of all, a draft of the final outcome.

Instead, it seems the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are further apart than they had been, two years ago when the Bali Action Plan, was launched.

Now, there is little prospect that the talks on the BAP will be completed in time at Copenhagen.  Political leaders and the UN Secretary General have warned that only a political statement or a framework, not a full agreement, can be done at Copenhagen.

Although the rhetoric remains good and clear, and more countries are pledging climate actions, in reality the mood in the UNFCCC talks has turned gloomy in the two months October and November.

The main reason is the astonishing and unfortunate turn of events, that the developed countries appear to have decided they do not want to continue with the Kyoto Protocol, and thus have dragged their feet in discussing their commitments to cut emissions.

By now, the developed countries should have come up with numbers on how much they commit to cut their greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) ends, so that a second period can begin in 2013.

But in Bangkok, in October, the developed countries signalled they are quite unwilling to do a second period under the KP and, worse, that they are likely to abandon the Protocol altogether.

This has sent shock waves around the world, and raised the prospect of utter failure in Copenhagen. Not only is Copenhagen's success in jeopardy, but the international climate regime itself, a turn of events that was hardly imagined before.

The Group of 77 and China has reacted furiously to the apparent ditching of the Protocol.   "We call on the developed countries that are members of the Kyoto Protocol to stand firmly in the KP and to engage seriously in negotiations for a second commitment period," it said in a statement on 9 October. "We will also consider the Copenhagen meeting to be a disastrous failure if there is no outcome for the commitments of developed countries for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol."    

The KP had firmly bound the developed countries internationally to commitments to cut their emissions.  It was agreed their emissions would be cut by 5% collectively by 2012 (compared to 1990) in the first period. The new cut after 2012 was expected to bring the emission levels down by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 (compared to 1990).  And the talks on this have gone on for three years.

One problem is that the United States pulled out of the KP some years ago. The Bali climate meeting in December 2007 envisaged that if the US did not return to the KP,  it could be dealt with as a special case by binding its commitment inside the Climate Convention, of which it is a member.

Instead of working out this plan, it appears that the other developed countries now want to jump ship from the Kyoto Protocol to join the US in a new agreement.

Unfortunately, this new agreement looks inferior to Kyoto.  Countries would inscribe their national climate plans in an appendix to the agreement.  They would later report on progress made, which would then be reviewed by other countries.

This is a kind of "pledge and review" approach, and much more lenient than the KP model with an internationally-set overall target for developed countries, with specific and binding targets for each country, and a compliance system.  

The developing countries see this as a lowering of the nature of the developed nations' commitments, from internationally binding to nationally determined.  "This is an attempt for a great escape," remarked China's Ambassador Yu Qingtai caustically.

The G77 and China's demand is for the developed countries which are KP members to commit to their cuts inside the KP, while the US would make its commitment for a comparable emission cut in a special decision inside the Convention.  This was after all envisaged in Bali.

There are other worrying trends, such as the attempt to confuse or do away with the distinction between the "differentiated responsibilities" of developed and developing countries.

But the major issue, as the train moves to Copenhagen, is whether the Kyoto Protocol will survive.  At the climate talks in Barcelona in November, the Africa Group supported by other developing countries insisted that the KP group should focus first on finalising the "numbers" for emission cuts  and later to discuss subsidiary issues.  For a day the talks froze until a compromise was agreed to.

At Copenhagen, the developing countries are likely to put the survival of the Kyoto Protocol as their top priority.  They will await the final answer from the developed countries on their intended fate for the KP.  The fate of the Copenhagen Conference may well depend on this issue.  This would have been inconceivable just months ago, when the continuation of KP into a second commitment period was a "given."

The fight to save the Kyoto Protocol is thus the focus of this issue of South Bulletin.  It covers the UNFCCC talks in Bangkok (October) and Barcelona (November), presenting the views of the developing countries.

We hope the Bulletin will enable readers to understand some of the underlying tensions in the global climate talks.