Some agreement on Kyoto needed: Molewa

2011-11-23 20:56

Cape Town - Some agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol has to come out of the Cop 17 climate change talks in Durban, Environment Minister Edna Molewa said on Wednesday.

"We do believe that... we will have to have some form of an agreement on the second period of the Kyoto Protocol," she told reporters in Cape Town.

This was important because leaders from the 194 delegations at the event had to be able to act on reducing carbon emissions when they returned to their home countries.

"Even if we don't have a legally-binding agreement in [Durban] now, or next year, or the next, actions must be taken. In other words, we can't mark time."

While South Africa was committed to securing a legally-binding agreement, this could take time, possibly up to 2020.

Molewa, who will lead the local negotiating team at Cop17, appeared to pin her hopes for securing it - later rather than sooner - on the release, in 2013/14, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report.

"That glaring report will then be able to say to the world, where do we stand and where do we go," she said.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only binding international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its first commitment period expires at the end of next year.

Many observers are of the opinion that a new binding international commitment is unlikely to emerge from Durban, but are hoping the conference will at least lay the foundation for one at a later stage.

Growing convergence

Cop 17, more formally the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will run from November 28 to December 9.

At last year's Cop 16, held in Cancun, Mexico, there were clashes over a proposal to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

Japan, Russia and the United States indicated they would not sign up to a second commitment period.

Earlier at the briefing, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane sounded a positive note on possible Cop 17 outcomes.

Referring to consultations held in recent weeks with other countries in the run-up to Durban, she said there was growing "convergence" on some issues.

"We think we see more convergence on issues than divergence. I noted there is more convergence. What I'm hearing is not whether we should commit to [a second period of] the Kyoto Protocol, but how."

Nkoana-Mashabane, who is the incoming president of Cop 17, said she was sure there was "no country that would want to come to Durban and be seen to be the spoiler".

In terms of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, "the focus is on the how... and starting discussion on a second framework".

Some negotiators were starting to refer to this as KP Plus.

Nkoana-Mashabane said she did not want to be unrealistic, and knew the negotiations would be difficult.

"But we remain cautiously optimistic," she said.

Both ministers said South Africa was ready to host the giant conference, set to attract about 20 000 participants, including 1 500 journalists, and up to a further 20 000 civil society members.