UN climate talks in Cancún are making progress towards a future agreement, but a deep divide over the Kyoto Protocol is souring the prospects for a positive conclusion to this round of negotiations.
Negotiators have described a constructive atmosphere in the talks that began in the Mexican city on 29 November, in contrast to the disarray and conflict that marred last year’s Copenhagen conference.
But as the talks near their conclusion on Friday, positions have hardened and threats to a deal have emerged.
“Some important decisions are ripe for adoption: on protecting forests, on climate adaptation, technology and some elements of finance,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon yesterday. “We also need to see progress on the challenging issues of mitigation, transparency and accountability, and additional clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.”
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres pressured delegates, saying: “We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Action now, and agreement and movement on as many issues as possible, must be our aim.”
US special envoy on climate change Todd Stern, also speaking on Tuesday, said an agreement was still to be had, but warned “the negotiations are still difficult, a result is still possible, the [Kyoto Protocol] issue continues to be tough. It’s not clear whether it’s resolvable – we certainly hope so.”
There are two years until the first Kyoto commitment period expires, and there is almost no chance of a new agreement being reached and ratified in that time. Developing countries are pushing for industrialised countries to agree emissions targets for a second Kyoto commitment period, but Japan, Canada and Russia have said they are unwilling to do so, as the Protocol excludes targets for large developing countries.
Brazilian and UK ministers have been tasked with finding consensus on the Kyoto Protocol issue. Brazil’s environment minister Izabella Teixeira said yesterday: “I have the same feeling I had during Nagoya [October’s landmark UN biodiversity conference] and we got a result. Today, I’m optimistic we can achieve a new arrangement.”
Stern said much was still to play for in agreeing mitigation of greenhouse gases. However, the text on the monitoring and reporting of emission reduction actions pledged by developing countries “is lagging way behind” others, he added, despite an earlier proposal from India being well received. “There’s really a lot of support for this, but not from everybody who matters yet,” he added.
A mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is close to agreement. “Negotiators have produced a draft agreement with only a small number of issues remaining, and have identified clear options to choose among them. Senior environmental officials now taking over the negotiations need to cross the finish line,” said Doug Boucher, director of climate research and analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists. However, Bolivia is holding out against a REDD agreement, because it opposes the use of market-based mechanisms.