No agreement for climate meeting

2011-09-12 08:26

The eagerly awaited high-level climate change meeting due to be held in Durban in November is not expected to deliver a legally binding agreement.

And only a handful of presidents are expected to attend the meeting, government officials and diplomats say.

Last week an informal meeting of country negotiators was hosted by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Pretoria for countries to find common ground.

But those who attended the meeting say an agreement that will see countries commit to limiting their carbon emissions is a pipe dream.

On the one hand countries like Brazil, South Africa, China and India – called the Basic group – feel that committing to cutting emissions will limit their economic growth.

European countries are also not keen on making commitments because the US will not be part of any agreement.

“For the US the only important issue for them is to implement the Cancun decisions, nothing more,” French climate change ambassador Serge Lepeltier told journalists.

At the previous high-level climate change meeting last year in Cancun, Mexico, countries decided to set up a Green Climate Fund, which is meant to fund measures to curb the effects of climate change.

Planning Minister Trevor Manuel is co-chair of the fund.

In Durban countries need to decide on the design of this fund, the functions of its standing committee and the sources of funding.

“The debate is about who will pay for what,” Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman said this past week.

South African government officials say the US has countries like Russia, Japan and Canada on its side because they believe climate change will affect them only minimally and therefore they don’t need to commit to carbon emission cuts.

However, the recently appointed Japanese foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, gave hope to the negotiators when he announced this week that Japan saw the necessity of a legally binding agreement in the future.

Officials say the Durban meeting will not have presidents in attendance to alleviate the pressure under which the negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 collapsed.

“The president (Zuma) may invite whomever he likes but in Copenhagen the heads of states became the negotiators and that is where things went wrong,” a South African official who is part of the national climate change team said.

According to Lepeltier a stalemate between the US and the Basic countries will continue if neither parties will make a concession.

“Even a small movement by the Basic countries would make it a necessity for the US to move,” he said.

The US government has been unable to pass climate change legislation that makes it possible for the government to make commitments during the climate change negotiations on emission targets.

The Pretoria meeting this week saw surprises like Mali opening a discussion about a transitional period once the Kyoto Protocol ends next year.

In Kyoto in 1997 each developing country except the US adopted an emission target.

This agreement expires in 2012 but the same countries are unwilling to make a commitment again because they believe the developing countries, which have grown since then, should also commit to targets.

However, the developing countries insist the developed countries committed the original sin of carbon emissions that cause climate change and therefore should carry the biggest responsibility for it.

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