Climate change negotiators in Cancun look to bridge gaps
There's an expanding rift between developed and developing countries over whether to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions beyond the 2012 limits.
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Several of its provisions are seen as essential pieces of a next-generation climate agreement that would include developing countries. But because the 194 countries attending the talks must reach agreement by unanimous consent, one country or one hundred have equal clout in bringing the process to a standstill or blocking a final agreement at the conference’s end.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Cancun climate talks
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That’s the procedural reason the accord currently falls outside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; a handful of countries, including Bolivia and Venezuela, refused to accept it as an official “decision” of last year’s meeting.
As for this year, “we have a chance to make progress here” after “extraordinarily difficult” talks in Copenhagen last December, said Todd Stern, lead US negotiator, during a press briefing Friday. “I would hate to lose that over strife over the Kyoto issue.”
Indeed, several observers note that while progress on fleshing out details of accord provisions is mixed, progress is nevertheless evident.
For instance, one of the issues widely seen as almost ready for prime time is known by its acronym REDD. Essentially, this would allow developing countries to earn credits they could sell on the global carbon market by preserving their tropical forests and avoiding the carbon-dioxide emissions deforestation produces.
One challenge has been deciding whether such programs should be nationwide once it becomes a formal UN mechanism for emissions reduction, a position developed countries have supported, or whether smaller-scale projects would earn credits for an interim period, as developing countries prefer.
After much back and forth, negotiators appear to be leaning toward the latter approach, notes Duncan Marsh, a former US climate negotiator and director of international climate policy for the Nature Conservancy, who is at the talks.
The reason: This would give developing countries – some of which lack the money and expertise to implement a nationwide program and the accounting system it would require – the opportunity to gain experience with smaller-scale projects before jumping into the deep end.
Another issue involves monitoring, reporting, and verifying the effect of actions countries agree to take to control their emissions, Mr. Marsh adds. Developing countries, especially giants China and India, have been concerned about the level of intrusiveness developed countries seemed to want, seeing proposals as affronts to their sovereignty.
But India and Singapore have put forward ideas that appear to have gained some traction at the talks.
“There a real possibility of bridging differences here,” Marsh says.
Financial aid to developing countries to help them adapt to the effects of global warming as well as to afford the technologies needed to control their greenhouse-gas emissions remains a challenge.
The Copenhagen Accord envisions a “green fund” reaching $100 billion a year by 2020. The hope is that this coming week’s ministerial level talks will be able to make progress on important pieces of the financing puzzle.
In the end, specialists say, the goal for Cancun is to make progress on each of three to six broad issues, depending on who is counting, in what has come to be dubbed “a balanced package.”