From the TUC

Barcelona climate talks: Timing of new treaty in doubt?

05 Nov 2009, by in Environment, International

Frustrations of developing countries here in Barcelona spilled over into a temporary suspension of all contact meetings on Monday. The Africa Group successfully called for a pause until the emission reduction commitments of developed countries were on the table. Talks in the so-called “numbers group” are meant to deliver the next round of Kyoto Protocol commitments – i.e. the level of CO2 cuts the the run up to 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wants CO2 emissions reduced by between 25% and 40% by 2002. No wonder the Africa Group is concerned. The combined commitment to date is a mere 16% cut in CO2 by 2020, says the UN.

Grace Ukama for the Kenya delegation said: “When we ask why they are not willing to put numbers on the table, they said it is economically and politically difficult. But for us it is a question of life and death, due to climate change impacts brought about by actions and lifestyles in the north.” China, India, Brazil and Grenada on behalf of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) all support the call. Talks have resumed, but concern remains over progress.

And then today (Wednesday), Yvo de Boer, the UN Climate Secretary, spoke at an informal meeting of civil society organisations of the difficulties of crafting a legally binding treaty in time for Copenhagen. At least one EU delegation had also confirmed to us this week that this was “regrettably, probably the reality” because of time constraints.

He suggested that Copenhagen was likely to emerge with a “package of decisions” signed off by heads of state, the basis of a new treaty but not the treaty itself. Naturally, such observations, however well founded, are greeted with dismay, not yet mixed with this “new reality”, among all the observer organisations, including the trade union delegation. According to de Boer, the political decisions would extend to a number of Annexes – for example:

  • Annex I: 2020 targets for developed countries individually, Japan, the US, etc, providing “important clarity” – In effect the Kyoto Treaty updated.
  • Annex II: Statements of commitments on low carbon development for developing countries, with details of their pathways below business as usual (BAU) to 2020. This will include proposals to monitor and verify their progress.
  • Annex III: Funding – what individual nations will deliver to “prompt start” financial support for the South; this may involve an initial commitment of $10billion.
  • Annex IV: burden sharing – a formula defining how financial commitments will be calculated and shared over time to 2020, to avoid constant arguments over these commitments.

All of this would be negotiated into a legally binding Convention by the end of 2010 but preferably by mid-2010. The fact that the US Senate is unlikely to finalise legislation before the end of this year is clearly a major factor at play in this new scenario. Though this thinking may be realistic, for many here in Barcelona it is also unacceptable.