Climate change negotiations in Cancun are in the crucial home stretch and there is measured optimism that an agreement can be reached. It will not be the legally binding agreement that most nations want. To succeed, these talks will have to set the groundwork for such an agreement next year in Durban. The key to moving ahead on global negotiations is the discussion about a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia, and others are opposed and argue that developing economies such as China, Indian and Brazil need to commit to emissions reductions first. The latter nations, along with the European Union and the vast majority of other countries at the talks, say that nations that have signed the legally binding Kyoto Protocol need to live up to their commitments and they need to agree to a second period. They argue that the countries that have created the mess should begin cleaning it up.
On the other hand, the Japanese negotiators have said that country will not agree because the nations that signed the 1997 protocol now account for only 27% of global emissions. Add the United States, of course, which has not signed Kyoto, and that number goes up noticeably. Meanwhile, the EU is pushing for a second commitment period because it has, on the whole, met its targets under Kyoto.
On Thursday, the Chair of the working group negotiating on Kyoto commitments released a text that has two options:
Adopts the amendments to the Kyoto Protocol as contained in the annex to this decision;
Decides that it shall, as it considers appropriate in the context of the adoption of a protocol pursuant to -/CP.16 and in order to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention beyond 2012 adopt the amendments to the Kyoto Protocol as contained in the annex to this decision;
2. Takes note of decisions -/CMP.6 on land use, land-use change and forestry, -/CMP.6 on emissions trading and the project-based mechanisms, -/CMP.6 on greenhouse gases, sectors and source categories, common metrics to calculate the carbon dioxide equivalence of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks, and other methodological issues, and -/CMP.6 on consideration of information on potential environmental, economic and social consequences, including spillover effects, of tools, policies, measures and methodologies available to Annex I Parties;
3. Decides that the provisions of the amendments contained in the annex to this decision shall apply to all Parties immediately upon the conclusion of the first commitment period under Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Kyoto Protocol, and shall continue to apply on a provisional basis until the entry into force of the amendments for each Party;
4. Invites Parties to deposit their instruments of acceptance in respect of the amendments contained in the annex to this decision, in accordance with Article 20, paragraph 4, with a view to ensuring that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods;
5. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to assess the implications of the carry-over of assigned amount units to the second commitment period on the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties in aggregate for the second commitment period;
6. Also requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to recommend, at its thirty- fifth session, appropriate actions to be taken by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to address the implications referred to in paragraph  above, for adoption by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol at its seventh session.
The entire document and its annexes can be found here .
Nothing is ever easy. It’s brinksmanship, said Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party and a long-time observer of the UNFCCC process. Once an agreement is reached, a second commitment period could look different but the problem is that after 20 years of negotiations developing countries “have not once” seen the major polluters of the world keep their promises, Green said.
“We all will leave Cancun knowing very clearly that we have not very significantly changed the time window in which the world will be able to address climate change," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner told the media in Cancun.
As someone said earlier, countries think they are negotiating with each other. In fact, they are negotiating with the atmosphere. The outcome of those negotiations cannot be delayed for much longer.
Clouds over Peaks in Ummannaq, Greenland. (Photo Credit: Lawrence Hislop)