The Protocol in dispute

December 6, 2010

The post-2012 emissions reduction commitments for Annex 1 countries under the Kyoto Protocol (KP) are presently going nowhere. Japan had fired the first salvo when in the opening plenary, it categorically stated its opposition to the second commitment period of KP. Now, countries like Australia, Canada, and some European nations have joined the chorus to disband KP.

On the other hand, BASIC countries insist that the continuation of KP is non-negotiable. On 6th December, at a press conference organised here in Cancun by the BASIC countries, Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief climate negotiator, categorically stated that BASIC wants KP to continue; the US, he said, can take comparable commitments under LCA. He essentially rebutted Japan’s assertion that KP without the participation of the US is meaningless.

The draft text on KP, which is actually a proposal by the Chair, shows that everything is open for discussion -- fundamental issues like what should be the length of the second commitment period (five years or eight years; till 2017 or 2020), what should be the base year from which the emissions reduction target should be measured (1990, 2000 or 2005), what sort of emissions reduction target should be set both aggregately and individually (aggregate targets vary from as little as 15-50 per cent), and should there be only a mid-term target or only a long-term target or both.

I think the developed countries are positioning themselves for a ‘grand bargain’ on KP.

  1. The best outcome for them would be that KP is disbanded and replaced by a single instrument (like the Copenhagen Accord) in which both developed and developing countries can pledge their emission mitigation targets. This will remove the distinction between developed and developing countries. In the process, it will also nullify the need for developed countries to make greater efforts on all fronts due to their ‘historical’ contribution to climate change. 

  2. They will agree to the second commitment period for KP, but in return they will demand expansion of the scope of activities under CDM (for instance, there is an effort to include carbon capture and storage, forestry projects, cropland and other land management activities under CDM so that cheap carbon credits can be used by the developed countries to ‘offset’ their emissions), more ambitious targets and legally binding commitment from BASIC countries, MRV similar to the developed countries for countries like India and China, etc. 

The point here is that in both the options, it is the BASIC countries stands to lose the most. With even some developing countries raising doubts over the continuation of KP, BASIC will have to come out with some ‘innovative’ diplomacy to wriggle out of this ‘KP googly’.

P.S: The news is that India has compromised on inclusion of CCS in CDM to please the Saudis.