At Last: Europe Abandons Folly Of Unilateral Climate Policy
The European Union’s demand for a road map leading to the next legally-binding global warming treaty raises a hurdle that may snarl negotiations at the United Nations climate conference this week. The 27-nation bloc said it accounts for about 11 percent of global emissions and that it can’t act alone on emissions blamed for damaging the environment.
Limits under the Kyoto Protocol expire next year. Japan, Russia and Canada have ruled out more commitments under that pact.
“We would only be politically able to move ahead into a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol if there is at least a road map forward with others saying when they are going to come into the climate fight,” Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission’s lead negotiator, said yesterday at a press briefing opening the talks in Durban, South Africa.
The comments, from Kyoto’s strongest supporter in the industrial world, mark the bloc’s biggest set of preconditions and complicate talks to rescue the only international treaty on cutting greenhouse gases.
Developing countries oppose binding targets for themselves and view the continuation of Kyoto’s goals for richer nations as the key to the fight against climate change — even without Japan, Russia and Canada onboard. They’re concerned the EU’s plan, calling for a treaty coming into force by 2020, as a way of delaying action.
“After a year of record emissions growth and the hottest temperatures on record, the push by the world’s biggest carbon polluters to delay flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence in support of immediate action and represents a betrayal of the people most vulnerable to climate change and the world,” said Dessima Williams, an envoy from Grenada who represents the Association of Small Island States.
The UN’s diplomat leading the talks said the question of Kyoto’s future is the most important one facing delegates, though she wouldn’t discuss where the EU position would drive the talks.
“Governments have arrived with a very, very clear view that the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is THE issue on the table, and it is intimately linked with whatever they are going to decide,” on a broader deal, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in an interview. “It’s too early to know, but I haven’t see anyone shrinking away from this.”
Doubt About EU
Some delegates doubt whether the EU will hold to its line given the bloc’s determination to deepen its own emissions cuts, said Edward Cameron, director of Washington-based World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative.
Officials in Brussels indicate they’re “planning to hold out and play hard ball, but that’s not something the Europeans generally do,” Cameron said in an interview.
The U.S. has signaled it opposes the EU plan. Todd Stern, the State Department’s climate envoy, told reporters in a Nov. 18 briefing in Arlington, Virginia that it’s “premature” to make promises about the legal form of a climate agreement before seeing its contents. U.S. officials are scheduled to brief journalists in Durban today.