Climate Change

Another bold move by Tuvalu - Update I

As we await news on the status of the Kyoto Protocol plenary (see previous post), Equitywatch offers a more indepth analysis of what's going on.

Published: Monday 07 December 2009

Discussions remain suspended
As we await news on the status of the Kyoto Protocol plenary (see previous post), Equitywatch offers a more indepth analysis of what's going on.

First, a brief clarification: unlike the UNFCCC plenary yesterday, the Kyoto Protocol plenary has not been suspended as whole: rather, discussion on the agenda item concerning amendments to the protocol has been suspended; the meeting itself has been adjourned. (The net result is, however, similar: formal talks are stalled.)

Second, while the G77 and China, and the Association Of Small Island States (AOSIS) both spoke in favour of setting up formal discussions on amendments, it appears that each had different amendments in mind. Confusion about who wanted what is likely one of the reasons why talks were adjourned.

Analysis of the amendments being proposed
In all, twelve proposals for amendments to the Kyoto Protocol were on the agenda (having been submitted to the Kyoto Protocol secretariat at least six months in advance). The following five may have been especially pertinent to this morning's breakdown in talks:

1. Tuvalu (a)
A first proposal by Tuvalu essentially asks to amend the Kyoto Protocol such that non-Annex I parties (i.e. developing nations) could, if they so chose, take on quantified emissions reduction targets. As it stands, the Protocol requires industrialised country parties to set targets, but doesn't create any legal space for other countries to do so.

This is clearly a controversial proposal; whereas it may be intended to apply to countries like South Korea and Saudi Arabia - i.e. countries that could easily be considered "industrialised", even though they are not part of the Annex I list - it would appear to make the firewall between Annex I and non-Annex I a little less absolute.

2. Tuvalu (b)
A second proposal by Tuvalu asks to establish diplomatic immunity for individuals serving in institutions established under the Kyoto Protocol.

3. The "G37"
A proposal by thirty-seven developing countries (including a couple of African members of AOSIS) aims to force Annex I countries to make aggregate emissions reduction of 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. A table in the amendment draft specifically assigns emissions targets, country-by-country, on the basis of "historical responsibility" for emissions between 1850 and 2005.

The clause specifying a 40 per cent target seeks to replace existing language in the Kyoto Protocol which merely sets out a process for establishing targets for the second Kyoto commitment period.

The thirty-seven countries who proposed the amendment in June are: Algeria, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, China, Congo (Republic of), Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Gambia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

4. Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Malaysia
A proposal by these four countries aims to introduce the notion of a "climate debt" to the Kyoto Protocol. It seeks to calculate two numbers for every Annex I country: first, how deeply they should cut emissions, on the basis of historical responsibility and in order to leave enough atmospheric space for other countries to develop; second, how deeply they can cut emissions. It would then require industrialised countries to reduce emissions as much as they can at home, and provide some kind of financial transfers to account for the remainder of what they should be cutting.

The proposal suggests, as a draft number, that Annex I countries can cut emissions by 49 per cent during the period 2013 to 2017, which is much more ambitious than the G37 proposal.

5. Australia Australia's proposal seeks to "amend" the Kyoto Protocol by erasing it, and rewriting it from scratch so that it becomes a pledge-and-review system with national schedules whereby countries set their own targets.

Australia has tried to forward this idea in several other fora: it proposed an entirely new Protocol under the UNFCCC along exactly the same lines (which was part of yesterday's controversy over continued discussions), and it helped Denmark write the draft agreement text that was leaked on Tuesday.

The politics of it all
At this stage, it appears that India, China, and other backers of the G37 proposal are keen on its being formally discussed in a Contact Group, but are opposed to considering other proposals, given their broader scope. Their argument is that proposals like Tuvalu's (a) could lead to changes in who takes action under Kyoto; by contrast, the G37 proposal only seeks to specify targets, while leaving other parts of the Protocol unchanged.

So far, there's still no word on how the impasse will be resolved, and when talks will resume.

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