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December 14, 2009

Climate Talks Stop, Restart

Climate Change: Developing Countries fear loss of Kyoto Protocol

Cheryl Hogue

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Developing countries suspended formal negotiations for part of today as the second and final week of talks on a new global climate change deal began in Copenhagen.

Developing countries stopped the talks because they fear that the negotiations are moving in a direction that could spell doom for the Kyoto protocol, a 1997 climate accord they want to see extended. After several hours of behind-closed-door talks, the formal negotiations restarted.

The protocol requires industrialized countries to reduce their emissions on average of 5% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. All industrialized countries of the world except the U.S. are party to the protocol. The pact does not require developing countries to control their emissions.

But the U.S. and many other industrialized nations are focused on crafting a new climate agreement that will include binding emission reductions for the U.S. as well as  limiting the emissions of emerging economies, such as China, India, and Brazil. Such an accord would build on the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which 192 countries, including the U.S., belong. The framework treaty suggests, but does not require, industrialized countries to cut their emissions.

Nonetheless, "a vast majority of countries here want to see the Kyoto protocol continue," Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate change official, told reporters in Copenhagen today.

"We did not obstruct the negotiations," said Bernaditas de Castro-Mueller of the Philippines, a senior coordinator for the Group of 77 and China, a bloc of about 130 developing countries. "We were diverted."

"Nothing was moving on the Kyoto Protocol," she told reporters, explaining why developing countries stopped the talks temporarily. The developing world saw the negotiations shifting to focus solely on a new accord.  Developing countries fear such a plan will allow the industrialized world to dump the Kyoto Protocol and get away from legally binding commitments to cut emissions.

Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee, called the developing countries' move "part of a theater game."

Because it is not party to the Kyoto protocol, "this is one highly contentious issue that doesn't include the U.S.," said Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change. But, he added, "any time that’s lost is unhelpful" in the climate change talks, which close on Friday.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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