By Haider Rizvi
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, December 14, 2009 (ENS) – United Nations climate negotiations have resumed in Copenhagen after delegates from some 130 developing countries, including China, Brazil, India, and South Africa, walked out to protest what they called an attempt to kill the Kyoto Protocol.
Informal talks assuring the developing countries that rich nations are not conspiring behind the scenes to reduce their commitments to limit greenhouse gases appear to have resolved the problem, at least for now. The same issue disrupted climate talks in Barcelona in November.
The five hour suspension of talks came because today’s agenda appeared to lead talks in the direction of canceling Kyoto Protocol limits on greenhouse gas emissions by rich nations. Developing countries are not legally bound by Kyoto emissions targets and support its extension beyond 2012, when the protocol’s first commitment period ends.
To express their objections, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, along with his counterparts, walked out to meet with Denmark’s Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard, who is presiding over the climate summit.
Developing nations, including many African nations, want to extend the Kyoto Protocol – the only treaty that currently commits industrialized nations to reduce emissions responsible for global warming. But that approach does not have the support of wealthy countries, particularly the United States, which has signed but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern told reporters in Copenhagen December 9, “We are certainly not going to become part of the Kyoto Protocol. We are not going to become part of the Kyoto Protocol, so that’s not on the table.”
“If you mean basically taking the Kyoto Protocol and putting a new title on it, we’re not going to do that either. … “We’re not going to Kyoto, and we’re not going to do something that’s Kyoto with another name,” said Stern.
The issue has not yet been finally resolved, but the developing country ministers have returned to the negotiations, which are proceeding along two parallel tracks – the Kyoto Protocol extension and a Long-term Co-operative Action.
Ramesh told “The Economic Times of India” that his government dismisses any suggestion of replacing the Kyoto Protocol with an alternative agreement. “India is not here to renegotiate agreement,” he said. “The mandate enables (the) existing two track approach of the Kyoto Protocol and the Long-term Co-operative Action to move ahead. The two tracks must be completed by 2010 at the latest.”
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband told reporters after the talks resumed, “Part of this process is ministers getting their act together and I don’t think we’ve covered ourselves in glory today.”
On returning to the summit meetings today after a day-long break Sunday, the diplomats from African countries said it is becoming inceasingly difficult for them to take part in the talks on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
“The developed countries are trying to collapse the negotiation process,” said Kamel Djemouai of Algeria, chief negotiator of the Africa Working Group at a hurriedly called press conference at the Bella Center.
Djemouai and other African delegates are critical of the rich countries and have raised serious questions about Hedegaard’s role in the negotiating process.
Hedegaard, who wants to see the draft text ready before the heads of state arrive in Copenhagen Wednesday, is consulting with delegates on informal basis.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, the parent treaty under which the Kyoto Protocol stands, confirmed that as the summit’s president, Hedegaard is determined to convene “open-ended consultations” with ministers and heads of delegations.
Critics say they understand Hedegaard’s concerns about the slow pace of talks, but hold that she has no right to bypass the established rules and regulations of the negotiating process.
“She is saying that she can dictate consultations,” said Djemouai. “Not all the views and concerns are reflected in this list of informal consultations.”
African and some Latin American negotiators are upset that Hedegaard is holding talks only with a select group of rich countries.
Djemouai said his group would not accept informal consultations on long-term actions unless the Kyoto Protocol issue is addressed first.
“Right now, we are going to lose everything,” he said. “If we accept just these informal consultations on “long-term cooperative actions,” in one or two days they will tell us, we don’t have time to deal with the Kyoto Protocol issues. We reject this procedure.”
Mama Konate, a negotiatior from Mali, said, “This is a new form of neo-colonialism. Kyoto is of paramount importance to us. We can never accept the killing of Kyoto. It is the killing of Africa. Before we accept that we should all die first.”
Bolivia’s ambassador Pablo Solan said, “The presidency of the UNFCCC says that its informal consultations will be based on regional participation,” he said, “but have not indicated how these will be chosen. They are creating an undemocratic parallel process where they can pick and choose only some countries.”
“It seems,” said Solan, “the only ones who have taken the ‘red pill’ and are aware of the reality are those who marched in the streets on Saturday, who have denounced the rich countries for trying to stitch a deal that will undermine their obligation to tackle this urgent climate crisis.”
“This is an outrageous attempt by rich countries to kill the Kyoto targets,” said Elizabeth Bast on behalf of the nonprofit Friends of the Earth. “We support African demands for Kyoto targets and mandatory emission reductions.”
Bast thinks that Hedegaad’s proposal to start informal negotiations would allow rich countries to dodge their emission reduction obligations. “The rich countries want to change the rules and tilt them in their own favor.”
Studies conducted by the United Nations and independent research organizations find that poor countries, particularly African nations need enormous amounts of financial and technological to avoid the worst impacts of climate changes.
Friday, the European Union offered to provide more than US$3 billion annually to a fast-start fund to help poor countries fight climate change, in addition to ordinary overseas development aid.
“They have committed some money,” said Alemnew Getnet Abera, an Ethiopian delegate. “Considering the impact of climate change on Africa, this is not enough.”
De Boer admitted that the question of financing for climate change mitigation is still unsettled, saying, “We would like to see progress … but right now we are halfway.”
Progress is being made on the question of emissions targets de Boer said. “Every industrialized country has now set targets for cuts in carbon emissions.”