10th May 2021

EU ties Kyoto extension to greater efforts all-round

  • A global agreement on tackling carbon emissions is proving to be highly elusive (Photo: European Commission)

The European Union has said major polluters must make greater progress in curbing carbon emissions before the 27-member bloc signs up to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

Failure to secure substantive movement on the issue of binding carbon targets overshadowed the end of climate talks in Bonn on Friday (17 June), despite progress in a number of important technical areas.

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Experts say that global warming is likely to exceed an agreed 2C threshold if carbon emissions continue at the current rate, but many governments fear binding emission commitments could reduce their economic competitiveness, despite a growing green technology sector.

A current agreement - the 1997 Kyoto Protocol - is due to expire at the end of 2012, raising the possibility of a regulatory gap if a new deal cannot be reached before then.

The US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and China, the world's largest emitter, was given no emissions' cap due to its status as a developing economy.

Despite pleas from a number of developing countries, the European Commission negotiator at the fortnight-long meeting, Jurgen Lefevere, said renewal of the Kyoto Protocol alone "is not going to cut it."

"We need to bring other big emitters into a robust regime," he insisted, noting that the EU currently accounted for 11 percent of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. "We need a solution for remaining 89 per cent as well."

The EU and others have already conceded however that an all-encompassing agreement on binding carbon emissions is unlikely to be achieved at UN talks in Durban this December.

Japan also sought to dispel reports that it was softening its opposition to a second Kyoto commitment period, with Russia and Canada equally opposed to an extension.

Non-governmental groups warned that global climate talks were proceeding far too slowly, but Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, defended the process, saying the economic crisis was making it harder to make progress.

"Climate [change talks] are the most important negotiations the world has ever seen, but governments, business and civil society cannot solve it in one meeting," she said at the close of the conference in Bonn.

Participants said progress in a number of technical areas was achieved in the former West German capital, including efforts to devise a system for the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of national emissions, a key EU demand.

Advances in the formation of a $100bn-a-year Green Fund to support adaptation and emission reduction efforts in developing countries were also secured, as well as in forest protection and carbon markets.

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