Attending a low-profile meet in Bonn this week, the United Sates’ chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing may appear to have wronged some section of American press that predicted slow death for the United Nations climate negotiations. But he hasn’t.
When the biggest climate summit began with a big bang and ended in a whimper in Copenhagen in 2009, most media in the US wrote off the future of the UN climate regime.
They argued that the collapsed conference in the Danish capital was a proof that 190 plus member countries of the UN cannot be expected to agree on a contentious issue like who should move first to contain the changing climate. That too even when more than two thirds of official delegation chiefs were heads of state or government.
The following year in Cancun, most countries chose to send their environment ministers as their representatives.
“And now from next year, we may see environment secretaries or ambassadors leading their teams in UN climate talks,” a veteran climate negotiations commentator said in the Mexican resort city.
Although it remains unclear what level of participation Durban will see later this year, all indications are that the meet will hardly be meaningful towards having a legally binding global climate treaty.
This week’s preparatory meeting in Bonn for the annual conference in the South African city has barely moved from the Copenhagen deadlock: who should mandatorily cut down the Earth warming green house gases and how to verify the reduction?
Major players have stuck to their guns, in the hope that the negotiator across the table will blink first.
Developed countries have once again argued that all major economies – implying that fast developing ones like China and India are included – will have to agree to a legally binding framework for carbon reductions.
While emerging economies have yet again insisted on the continuity of the Kyoto protocol that requires developed countries to compulsorily cut down carbon emissions while they themselves are exempted.
The treaty’s first commitment period is ending next year and many developed countries are against its extension.
While Japan and Canada amplified their opposition to the continuity of the Kyoto protocol, Russia was even blunter: “No one should be under the illusion that Durban is only about the second period of the Kyoto,” it said during the Bonn meeting.
Such is the twist of climate politics that the one-time close ally of India, Moscow was seen toeing the line of the US that never ratified the Kyoto, so far the only legally binding international climate treaty.
While Indian and Chinese negotiators were harping on the agreement reached in the UN climate conference in Indonesia’s Bali in 2007 because the Bali Road Map, to their advantage, envisaged the continuity of the Kyoto protocol after 2012.
As if the standoff on the Kyoto was not enough, US negotiators put on the table pending thorny issues like climate financing, green technology, transparency on who is cutting carbon emission by how much, and so on.
“No individual element can move without all elements moving together,” their chief negotiator Pershing conditioned during negotiations in Bonn.
The verdict of some section of American press on future UN climate negotiations does not seem baseless.