Bangkok 2012: UN climate talks close with ‘unofficial’ draft on Kyoto Protocol 2nd period

By Ed King

The latest round of UN climate talks in Bangkok has closed with no new agreements or deals but a sense that negotiations ahead of COP18 in Qatar are back on track.

A Japanese negotiator told RTCC these had been ‘slow, dull, calm and peaceful’ negotiations which were on the whole ‘positive’.

An ‘unofficial paper’ outlining how a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol could work has been produced, while discussions over the format of the Durban Platform have been termed ‘productive’.

Little progress appears to have been made over the future of the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) negotiating stream, with familiar disagreements between developed and developing countries. A text may or may not be released later today.

Discussions over finance were described as ‘useful’ but there have been no new pledges. It is accepted that a new round of Fast Start Finance needs to be agreed in Qatar, but concrete commitments have yet to be made.

The Green Climate Fund board meets for a second time in October, with further contributions from the EU, Japan, Australia and Canada expected.

On the positive side, Bangkok appears to have been a calming influence after what were labelled ‘nasty’ talks at the Bonn meeting in May.

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There had been doubts over the need for an extra round of talks, but UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said the results proved this had been a worthwhile experience.

“The investment in Bangkok has paid off.  Government negotiators have pushed forward key issues further than many had expected and raised the prospects for a next successful step in Doha,” she said.

“There are still some tough political decisions ahead, but we now have a positive momentum and a greater sense of convergence that will stimulate higher-level political discussions ahead of Doha and set a faster pace of work once this year’s conference begins,” she said.

Bangkok analysis

The last week has seen substantive work on an extension to the Kyoto Protocol, which is scheduled to be agreed at COP18 and commence on January 1 2013.

EU lead negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger told RTCC yesterday “What we will see at the end of the Bangkok talks will be a first draft of a full negotiating text.” That was optimistic – what we have got is a Non-paper with a list of proposals.

Australia looks like it will come on board KP2 with the EU, possibly bringing New Zealand with it.

What remains unclear is whether countries like Japan and Russia will be given access to the Clean Development Mechanism – which allows Annex I nations to cut emissions by investing in cheaper carbon reduction schemes overseas.

LDC chief Pa Ousman Jarju told RTCC: “They can forget about them (CDM credits),” he said. “If you don’t want the Mango tree you should not go in for the fruits,” but we understand Japan is still confident it will be allowed to remain a part of the Mechanism, despite declining to take part in KP2.

One of its negotiating team told RTCC: “Even though we are strict on joining KP2, we are very interested in joining the mechanism. We commit ourselves to be involved. Maybe that will be a little bit difficult.”

LCA – is the end in sight?

Negotiators were still working on potential draft ‘texts’ into Wednesday evening, and while there has been progress on issues within this particular track, notably REDD finance and discussions over new mechanisms to boost international action, overall the situation does not appear to have changed.

The EU, USA and the Umbrella Group maintain most of the issues within the LCA have been resolved and those that have not could be moved to the new Durban Platform negotiating track.

Others, notably the Least Developed Countries bloc and China, claim it has not yet served its purpose.

The first group do not want to see a ‘text’ emerge from Bangkok, as this could then take on a life of its own in Doha and prolong a pathway of talks they would like to see canned. As one negotiator put it: “We all have different interpretations of where we are.”

A key question is whether the Bali Action Plan’s goals – which form the basis of the LCA – have been achieved.

One would have to say no, given there is no ‘shared vision’, developed states have not stated their ‘quantified emission and limitation targets’, and developing countries have not submitted their own mitigation actions in ‘a measurable, verifiable and reportable manner’.

Durban Platform

In Bangkok the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was been split into two sections, vision and ambition.

The aim at the moment is to develop a strategy to take this track forward before serious negotiations start. While talks were again termed productive these deliberations are likely to continue in Doha.

One proposal floated in the ‘ambition’ section was that the Montreal Protocol could be expanded to phase out the production and use of the industrial chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent warming gases.

Group Co-Chairs Jayant Moreshver Mauskar and Harald Dovland said: “Discussions in the ADP at the Bangkok climate talks have succeeded in building confidence among governments on the new process, providing a strong basis for further work in subsequent years.”

We understand it is likely serious talks under the ADP will start at the 2013 Bonn UNFCCC meeting.

Finance

A new round of Fast Start Finance has to be part of the deal in Doha, but Parties were largely reluctant to make any commitments at this stage.

As mentioned above, the Green Climate Fund board meets for a second time in October, with further contributions from the EU, Japan, Australia and Canada expected.

Finance pledges are a stick both the developed and developing world use to extract promises from each other. The LDC bloc has been quick to use broken finance pledges as proof that rich countries are not fully committed to combating climate change.

Their chairman has little time for pleas from the EU that it has run out of money: “We cannot use the economic crisis as an excuse for not acting on climate change,” he said.

2°C or not 2°C?

The latest Climate Action Tracker report says the world is on a path to +3°C unless governments deliver more ambitious emission pledges.

Nothing in Bangkok changed this situation.

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