A dispute over the length of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has threatened to fracture a coalition between the EU and some of the world’s poorest countries at the latest round of U.N. climate talks, which started in Bonn on Monday.
Negotiators from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) warned in a joint statement that the EU’s insistence on an eight-year second commitment period from 2013 would delay action from all big emitters and risked alienating the two negotiating blocs at the two-week talks.
“The environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol…depends on having a five-year commitment period to avoid locking-in inadequate level of ambition,” said the statement.
The EU wants an eight-year period to coincide with its domestic target to cut emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
The goodwill of the world’s poorest countries is essential to the negotiation of a new climate treaty by 2015 that would take effect after 2020, as U.N. talks are based on consensus of around 190 countries.
And agreement on the length of a second Kyoto period must be found by the end of higher level talks in Doha, Qatar at the end of this year, when the first Kyoto phase expires.
Last week, the LDC bloc warned that the EU’s insistence on a longer commitment period would allow countries such as China, India, Japan, Russia and the U.S. to drag their heels in negotiating a wider global agreement seen as essential to prevent catastrophic drought, flooding, mass migration and crop failures.
The rich countries that have agreed a second Kyoto emission target account for just 15 percent of global emissions, while all other nations currently only have voluntary greenhouse gas targets.
The EU played down suggestions of a rift, arguing that its coalition with the world’s poorest nations would stick together because of a “shared objective” in delivering big emission reductions.
“Even if in terms of instruments we have different views, by Doha I’m sure we have sorted them out and show the world we have closed the ambition gap (in emissions cuts),” said Artur Runge-Metzger, the lead EU negotiator at the Bonn talks.
He added the EU would ask developing countries to disclose more on future measures to slow emission growth as part of the Durban Platform that U.N. parties agreed at the end of the last year.
But this move is likely to rankle with big developing world emitters such as India, which argues that developing countries should be treated differently from rich countries in any future climate deal.
U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said progress would need to be made in Bonn to get an agreement in Qatar on the duration of ‘Kyoto 2’.
Figueres added that the Bonn meeting would need to make headway on how to fill the Green Climate Fund, designed to raise $100 billion per year by 2020, and deeper overall emission cuts.
“We still have a gap,” Figueres said, citing the latest U.N. analysis on current emissions targets that said current pledges could doom the planet to catastrophic warming.
Observers said negotiators would need to advance the talks rather than go over familiar ground.
“With Durban marking the beginning of the process to deliver a global climate treaty by 2015, they have to use Bonn to deliver a work-plan that gets us there,” said Liz Gallagher, Senior Policy Advisor at environmental think-tank E3G.
The talks end on May 25.