Falling into the Gap

You know matters have come to a head when the Chinese delegation questions your intelligence by comparing it to that of a child. He was not alone. Delegates representing various groups, ranging from G77 and China, to the African Group, to the Alliance of Small Island States, to the League of Arab States, to the Least Developed Countries went into the opening meeting of the Bangkok talks with guns blazing.

The biggest round of fire came from the Tuvalu delegate who caustically alluded to an attempt not to let him speak when technical audio difficulties helped the New Zealand chair gavel through the opening session of the Ad Hoc Working Group (AWG-KP). He even insinuated that he was held hostage and flatly turned down the Chair’s suggestions for break-out discussions, seeing it as contempt for transparent and participatory processes, which are the usual practices of the United Nations.

What triggered these verbal wars? Gaps.

A commitment gap: Annex 1 parties show no signs of entering into a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol when the first commitment period ends in 2012.

A mitigation gap: The level of emission reduction pledged by the Annex 1 parties is insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 2˚C (see UNEP’s report and Climate Action Tracker). In fact, Bolivia even showed that non-Annex 1 parties’ pledges were more than those of Annex 1 parties.

In her opening address, Christiana Figueres acknowledged the dire situation and called to revive the “atmosphere of cooperation and compromise that characterized the Cancun session.”

Annex 1 parties made it clear that they do not want legally binding obligations, preferring instead a voluntary pledge system. They do not seek a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, opting instead for a new regime. On behalf of the umbrella group comprising Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States, Australia said it believes that the Kyoto Protocol must take place in a broader context and that is contingent upon development in the AWG-LCA. This was repudiated by non-Annex 1 parties, who saw it as a violation of the spirit and letter of the Bali Action Plan.

The subject of these heated exchanges is not new, and parties have circled around it many a times before. The very future of climate regime architecture is under threat, yet again. Barely five months after Cancun, will Durban turn out to be a bad sequel to Copenhagen?

 

Posted by Celina Yong.

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