On late Tuesday, Japan surprised the UN climate talks by saying it won’t extend the Kyoto Protocol- the only legally-binding international treaty that commits most of the world’s developed countries to making emission cuts. The country inscribed in history for having nurtured the Kyoto Protocol said it will not, under any circumstances, sign up to extend it after the first commitment period expires in 2012.
The strong statement from Japan immediately drew fires from negotiators.
Japan’s opposition to extending the Kyoto Protocol is not very constructive, Brazilian Ambassador for Climate Change Sergio Serra told Xinhua on Wednesday.
Its stance on this issue "obviously will" be an obstacle to the Cancun conference "unless Japan compromises a little bit," Serra said.
"There is no way to move forward if we don’t have the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol," Serra added.
Su Wei, chief Chinese negotiator and head of the climate change department of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters that he noticed Japan’s strong opposition to the second commitment period of the Protocol.
According to Su, Japan’s stance has triggered a strong response from negotiators and will greatly affect the balanced outcome of the conference.
Su deemed the Protocol as a key issue to a climate regime and a basis of international framework to address global warming.
"It is one of the crucial issues concerning the success of the Cancun conference," he said.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Japan in 1992 by major emitting countries, which committed themselves to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 baseline levels by 2012. However, the U.S. Congress has refused to ratify the Protocol.
On Friday, a bloc of Latin American countries issued a stern warning to rich nations that unless they commit to new emissions cuts, the UN climate talks in Cancun will fail.
Negotiators from Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador- all members of the ALBA alliance- said they would not accept the refusal by some developed countries to extend their binding emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Representing all ALBA nations, Venezuelan negotiator Claudia Salerno said that the bloc would not sign any new agreements unless rich nations commit themselves to a second period in the Kyoto Protocol.
"If there is no second period of Kyoto, it is very difficult that there can be any balanced package" of decisions in Cancun, Salerno said. "We won’t sell ourselves."
Meanwhile, the non-governmental organizations Third World Network, Friends of the Earth and the International Forum on Globalization said on Friday that there exists a secret text, which the Mexican government, the COP16 host, would present to the environment ministers.
This document, whose existence was denied by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and other delegates, reportedly stipulates the replacement of the Kyoto Protocol with the Copenhagen Accord, which does not include obligatory greenhouse emissions cuts for the signatory nations.
The Chinese negotiator Su told reporters on Saturday that the president of COP16 has told the delegation of each country including China that Mexico will not put forward a secret text.
"As I know, Mexico, the host country of COP16, is always pursuing the principles of ‘open, transparent and widening participation’ for the climate negotiations this year. I believe Mexico will continue to keep the principles to try to get the results of balance at the Cancun Conference," said Su.
Danish Minister for Energy and Climate Change Lykke Friis also refuted the rumors on Saturday.
"There will always be debates about whether negotiations are being done in a transparent way," Friis said in an interview with Xinhua. "At the creation stage one has to be a deal maker. Anyone who acts as a broker runs the risk of being called non-transparent. But Mexico has done a very good job in creating confidence."
The difficulties are created when some developed countries explicitly announced they would not continue to commit themselves to cut greenhouse gas emissions for the second period under the Kyoto Protocol, when the first period expires in 2012, Khor said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
He said without a second period commitment from the developed countries, the Kyoto Protocol- the only legally-binding system that regulates emission cuts- could be dismantled.
Any alternative, such as voluntary commitment, will not rally enough actions to tackle climate change, he said.
He cited the latest study done by United Nations Environment Program, which shows the voluntary commitment approach by the developed countries under the Copenhagen Accord, including the United States, was not enough to reduce GHG emissions.
They “would only reduce GHG emissions by 16 percent, instead of 40 percent that is required,” he said.
“In the worst scenario, this 16 percent comes with conditions. If you don’t meet the conditions, then in worst scenario, the developed nations will increase emissions by 6 percent; they will not decrease emissions,” He said.
EU open to another period of Kyoto Protocol
Europe was willing to commit to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol but it had to be a balanced deal, European Union officials said in Cancun Friday.
Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions only accounted for 12 percent of the global total, so it was seeking a balanced deal in UN climate change negotiations, European Union officials Peter Wittock and Artur Runge-Metzger told a press conference.
Some nations were using a shrill tone in order to emphasize certain points as UN climate talks progressed, Runge-Metzger said.
With ministers from more than 190 signatories to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its supplementary document, the Kyoto Protocol, due to meet here on Tuesday next week, there was still room for negotiations to turn in a positive direction, he said.
The 16th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC is taking place here to seek ways to tackle global climate changes. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in one of the key issues being discussed during the talks as the Protocol’s first commitment will expire in 2012.
Some countries, like Japan, Canada and Russia, have publicly said they will not sign any new agreements concerning the second commitment period.
Venezuela, representing the nations of the Boliviarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), said it would not sign any new agreements unless rich nations committed to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol.
The EU officials said the ALBA nations – Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Antigua, St. Vincent and Dominica – were seeking to pressure fellow participants to concede.
The COP16 opened on Nov 29 in this resort city on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, to look for a binding global agreement on tackling global climate change. The conference will close on Dec 10.
Draft text released at Cancun climate conference
At the end of the first week of the ongoing UN climate change conference, a 33-page UN draft text outlining options for a possible deal for the conference was released Saturday.
The draft provides two options for the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding international treaty that commits most of the world’s developed countries to making emission cuts, as wrestling over the second period of the protocol are heating up at Cancun.
One allows an extension of the Kyoto Protocol and another leaves its future unclear.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Japan in 1992 by major emitting countries, which committed themselves to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels by 2012.
After the draft was released, chief Chinese negotiator Su Wei told a conference of parties, "We are all here to seek a comprehensive and balanced outcome. I think one of the indispensable elements in this balanced package is the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol."
China won’t compromise on principle: chief negotiator
China will not compromise on issues of principle at the ongoing UN climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, the country’s chief negotiator said on Saturday.
Su Wei, the chief Chinese negotiator and head of the climate change department of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, made the remarks in response to some parties’ call for "compromise to make achievements."
"All the parties want to reach substantial achievements at the Cancun conference, which can lay a solid foundation for the completion of ‘Bali Roadmap’ negotiations," Su told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
"I think we can cooperate with other parties and even make compromises on some non-principle issues, but we will not compromise on the issues of principle, such as the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the basis for a package of agreements to be made in Cancun," Su said.
The negotiator stressed that the developing countries have reached consensus on the principle issues. "We are keeping solidarity and trying to play a constructive role," he added.
Su said some country’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol is no good news to the developing countries, and has exerted negative influence on the conference.
Negotiators at the Cancun conference are trying to establish a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges rich nations except the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
"At the end of the first week of the Cancun conference, there are some progresses in adaptation, finance, technology and mitigation for the developing countries, but it is hard to say if the progresses are final ones," Su observed.
As for the rumors about a secret Mexican text, Su said that the president of COP16 has told the delegations from every country including China that Mexico will not put forward a secret text.
"As I know, Mexico, the host country of COP16, is always pursuing the principles of ‘open, transparent and widening participation’ for the climate negotiations this year. I believe Mexico will continue to keep the principles to try to get the results of balance at the Cancun Conference," he said.
Su noted that the ministers will arrive in Cancun in the second week of the conference. He hopes the ministers can play an active role in promoting the progress of the conference.
A 70-strong-member delegation of the Chinese government, headed by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, is cooperating with other parties to seek a solution to global warming in Cancun.
The Cancun talks, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10, are aimed at finding solutions to global climate change. It has attracted about 25,000 participants from governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations and research institutions in nearly 200 countries.