5 October, 2009 — Climate and Capitalism
Statement from China and G77 nations at climate talks in Bangkok claims rich nations are rejecting historical responsibilities
The US and other developed countries are attempting to ‘fundamentally sabotage’ the Kyoto protocol and all-important international negotiations over its next phase, according to coordinated statements by China and 130 developing countries at UN climate talks in Bangkok today.
As 180 countries started a second week of talks, the developing countries showed their deep frustration at the slow pace of the negotiations on a global climate deal, which are planned to be concluded in two months’ time in Copenhagen.
‘The reason why we are not making progress is the lack of political will by Annex 1 [industrialised] countries. There is a concerted effort to fundamentally sabotage the Kyoto protocol,’ said ambassador Yu Qingtai China’s special representative on climate talks. ‘We now hear statements that would lead to the termination of the protocol. They are introducing new rules, new formats. That’s not the way to conduct negotiations,’ said Yu.
Yu’s was echoed by Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese chair of the G77, the UN’s largest intergovernmental organisation of developing states which represents 130 countries at the talks. ‘Feelings are running high in the G77. It is clear now that the rich countries want a deal outside the Kyoto agreement. It would be based on a total rejection of their historical responsibilities. This is an alarming development. The intention of developed countries is clearly to kill the protocol,’ he said.
The angry statements follow a revelation by Barack Obama’s energy adviser, Carol Browner, that she did not expect the US Senate to vote on its crucial global warming bill before the Copenhagen talks. That will severely limit Obama’s room for manoeuvre at the summit and is the first time the White House has made such an admission.
The G77 plus China group is incensed that rich countries appear to be seeking to establish a new agreement that would force developing countries to cut emissions, but allow rich countries to do little.
In the talks, the US has said it wants a new approach which would move away from a legally binding world agreement to one where individual countries pledged cuts in their national emissions without binding timetables and targets. It is a change from the top down approach of Kyoto, in which total emissions targets are determined by the science, to one in which individual countries pledge their own emissions cuts.
This is seen as undermining the Kyoto framework, which took many years to build, and has until now been the foundation for committing all countries to cut their emissions. The US team in Bangkok declined to respond to today’s criticism.
Developed countries have so far refused to show their hand on what their emission cuts should be. The UN’s Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that to keep below a 2C rise in temperatures they need to cut their emissions by 25-40% by 2020, compared with 1990 levels. But developing countries are calling for an aggregate cut of at least 40%.
But with fewer than 10 days of formal negotiations left before the Copenhagen talks begin, poor countries are complaining that they are being expected to cut emissions but the US and others are being allowed to get away with minimal cuts.
The UN estimates that the combined cut from national pledges made by rich countries, without the US, comes to 16-23%. However, a new analysis by the Alliance of Small Island States, estimates that this drops to just 11-18% with the US’s present offer. If rich countries are allowed to offset large amounts of emissions, as expected, this would mean that the world’s rich countries might not to have to make any emissions cuts at home.
Several of the world’s largest developing countries including China and India, Indonensia and Mexico have indicated that they are ready to make significant emissions cuts.
‘The United States wants only to have a national target without binding it to a global treaty. It appears to have won over many other developed countries,’ said Martin Khor, the director of the South Centre, a think tank of poor countries based in Geneva.
‘They are stressing that developing countries have ‘common’ responsibilities, a code for pulling in the developing countries into emission-reduction obligations, while down-playing the ‘differentiated’ responsibilities that recognise that the developing countries have had little role in the historic emissions and need space for economic development.’
Ed Miliband, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, said he remained optimistic that a deal could be struck at Copenhagen, despite the increase in tension in Bangkok. He said he was confident heads of state would be able to succeed in December where their official negotiators had apparently so far failed.
‘This is really too important to be left to formal negotiators. If we are to get an agreement we need leaders, who can knock heads together,’ Miliband said, speaking in Moscow, where he is on a two-day official visit. He told the Guardian: ‘If we treat this like a conventional negotiation we are going to fail… I think leaders can crack this problem.’