Bangkok 2012: Talks offer first glimpses of what Kyoto Protocol MK2 might look like

By John Parnell

Early indications of what the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP2) might look like are emerging as the dust settles on the latest round of UN climate change negotiations.

Australia, New Zealand and Ukraine are all considering joining KP2, with further announcements expected at the UNFCCC ministerial meeting to be held in South Korea ahead of COP18.

Discussions on spare emissions allowances from the first commitment period, the duration of the second commitment period and the potential of a mid-term review of targets also made progress.

All parties appear to be in agreement that the next set of pledges should account for emissions from January 1, 2013 onwards, even if the paperwork is concluded after this date.

Some more radical proposals including punitive measures for countries that shirk their responsibilities and blocking nations with commitments from using Kyoto’s carbon offsetting platforms were also tabled.

The Kyoto deal agreed in 1997 created a set of rules and mechanisms under which countries could make legally binding pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The first commitment period finishes at the end of this year and negotiations are now focused on improving the system and gaining new, more ambitious pledges from nations in time for the COP18 climate summit in Doha this November.

A future global deal for all countries to cut CO2 from 2020, the Durban Platform, hinges on KP2 filling the intervening years.

Doha will host the UN's COP18 climate talks, were it is hoped details of KP2 can be signed off by Ministers. (Source: Flickr/Larry Johnson)

Delegates and observers have been unified in their praise of the progress made on KP2.

“We had constructive discussions in Bonn [in May] but we have made further steps forward,” EU lead negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger told RTCC.

“The Bangkok talks have produced a first draft of a full negotiating text. There is a striking difference between the meeting in Bonn and the meeting in Bangkok. There haven’t been procedural fights about agendas or nominations so that has made it easy to delve relatively quickly into substantive discussions.”

This text will allow delegates at the COP18 meeting, where documents can be approved by Ministers, to hit the ground running on the issue of KP2.

“We will have very limited time In Doha. The agenda is so packed and we only have six days in the first week before the Ministers arrive, so there’s not much negotiating time left,” added Runge-Metzger.

The IISD has quoted delegates involved in the discussions as saying more progress has been made in five days in Bangkok than was made in two weeks at the Bonn meeting in May.

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As for the make-up of the second period, the EU has refused to rule out a jump from its existing target of 20% to 30%. The group wants assurances that countries making binding pledges under KP2 or voluntary agreements, will also cut deeper into their emissions.

Developing nations are keen to see as many rich nations as possible sign up to the second commitment period and to keep their pledged emission cuts in line with what the science says is necessary to prevent dangerous climate change.

The IPCC has recommended that developed nations should target 25-40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

The new Like Minded Group (LMG) said if KP2 is launched with weak targets it could unravel the Durban deal. It said the refusal of developed nations to sign-up to KP2 was “a betrayal of the Durban package”.

They went one further to say that there should be retributions for those that don’t sign-up.

“Departing from one’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol must have consequences because it shows a clear lack of commitment to helping solve the global climate change problem,” reads the LMGs submission.

“In this regard, Annex I Parties [rich countries] who are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol or are not going to commit to a second commitment period…should not be allowed to use the Kyoto Protocol’s flexibility mechanisms,” referring to the tools within Kyoto that allow nations to offset emissions.

Expansion

Australia and New Zealand are considering joining KP2 with the EU working behind the scenes for their inclusion.

Australia recently indicated that it would join the EU carbon trading scheme, joining Kyoto would make this far simpler as it would show precisely how much carbon the country was looking to cut and provide it with more mechanisms to achieve this.

There could be a third new entrant to KP2 according to Runge-Metzger with the Ukraine submitting its own proposed emissions target of 20% by 2020 on 1990 levels.

“They gave a presentation at the start of the conference to inform everyone of where they stand in their deliberations at home. They are looking at what the likely emissions profile could be till 2020 and they have reiterated that they want to reduce their emissions by 20% on 1990 levels,” he said.

Like Australia and New Zealand, Ukraine still has to decide internally, if it will sign-up.

NGOs cautiously welcomed the most recent progress on Kyoto.

“Progress has been made with Kyoto. There was a lot of technical and legal details that have been sorted out,” said Tove Ryding, climate change policy coordinator at Greenpeace International.

“Now all the options are on the table, the unambitious option that puts us on a path to 4°C of warming and more and the option that actually provides some solutions. It’s up to the Ministers to pick and choose between them,” she added.

“Governments are in a slightly better position after the Bangkok talks. They have sorted out a lot of the technical details so if we don’t get the outcomes in Doha that have been outlined, it’s not because the negotiations were not ready, it’s because the political will is missing.”

The UNFCCC process is an iterative one, but KP2 appears to have taken some significant steps towards becoming reality in Doha. The biggest remain issue to be settled in the Qatari capital could well be just how ambitious the pledges from participating governments are.

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