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China: Canada’s Kyoto Protocol Withdrawal ‘Regrettable’ December 14, 2011

China is calling Canada’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol “regrettable” and says it goes against the efforts of the international community. Canada’s move comes days after climate-change negotiators met to hammer-out a global deal in Durban, South Africa.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin expressed China’s dismay at the news that Canada had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

He says the timing is particularly bad, because negotiators at the just-concluded Durban conference made what he described as important progress on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.

Liu says Canada’s move goes against the efforts of the international community and is regrettable. He says Beijing hopes Canada will face up to its obligations, honor its commitments and actively participate in international efforts to fight climate change.

Canada Monday announced that it is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty hammered out in 1997 that calls for major industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The accord recognizes China as a developing country and so does not impose mandated emissions reduction targets on Beijing.

China and the United States are the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon gases that many scientists say exacerbate global warming.

Liu indicated that Ottawa’s decision will not affect Beijing’s actions.

He says China has been actively participating in the international effort against climate change and made what he describes as “utmost efforts” for the Durban meeting’s success. He says this will continue in the future.

The Chinese negotiator at Durban, Xie Zhenhua, says he is concerned that developed nations are reluctant to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say exacerbate global warming. He also called on developed countries to provide financial and technical aid to help developing nations fight against and cope with the effects of climate change.

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Durban talks: how Connie Hedegaard got countries to agree on climate deal December 11, 2011

Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, has been hailed the hero of the Durban meeting that reached an unexpectedly solid outcome in the early hours of Sunday .

“She is very, very good and we are very lucky to have her,” says Chris Huhne, the UK energy and climate change secretary. “She held everything together in a very impressive manner – a class act.”

Hedegaard, below, once the youngest person elected to the Danish parliament, was the architect of the EU plan to gather developed and developing economies together for the first time in a legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. A deal was struck that met nearly all of the EU’s aims, satisfied most developing countries and even brought the US on board.

In doing so, Hedegaard saved the UN process of negotiations, which without a deal at Durban would have fallen apart. Hedegaard’s manoeuvring also forced China to acknowledge that it will take on commitments on an equal legal footing to developed countries.

“You could hear the shifting of tectonic plates,” said one diplomat. “This is hugely important not just for the climate talks but in geopolitical terms.”

Key to her success was the hardline attitude Hedegaard adopted. Developing countries, including China, have long insisted that the 1997 Kyoto protocol should be extended when its current targets run out in 2012. EU member states are virtually the only countries willing to do so. But while some member states wanted to offer the extension as a matter of course, Hedegaard had other ideas – it would only be agreed if developing countries also signed up to her roadmap.

That would entail committing to curb emissions on the same legally binding footing as the rich world, as an acknowledgement that the distinctions between developed and emerging economies have changed since 1997, when the Kyoto protocol was drawn up. This also made it possible for the US to join in, because America had insisted it will only join up to any agreement on the basis of such legal parity.Hedegaard knows about negotiations failing – as Denmark’s environment minister since 2004, she was the host and president of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit.

There she witnessed, excruciatingly, at firsthand the embarrassment of the EU at the hands of the US and the BASIC countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China — when President Obama took his counterparts behind the scenes to forge a deal on emissions that left out the EU. European and UN officials were left visibly flummoxed as Obama announced his deal to the media. That deal was instantly denounced as weak, because countries had not agreed that it was legally enforceable, and the summit ended in scenes of chaos and acrimony.

Durban was Hedegaard’s chance to raise a new phoenix from the ashes of the Copenhagen conflagration. And she was determined to do so.

At stake was the whole process of United Nations climate negotiations. The Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997 by all countries, including the US. But the Clinton administration was unable to put it put before Congress because opposition to it was so strong. Since then, the UN talks have been in trouble. Without the active participation of the US – now the second biggest emitter – they could not succeed.

Hedegaard’s roadmap was crafted in the back offices of the European commission, and she embarked on private meetings with ministers in big and small countries. In October, she had it rubber-stamped by the EU member states.

Despite the battering she received in the conference – from Indian and Chinese ministers, who attacked the EU for trying to strongarm them — she held her nerve. Up to the last moment, negotiators for other countries were briefing that the EU would cave in, and concede that an agreement was not possible. But in the final minutes, the EU agreed a phrase that it said would ensure future commitments were binding. – they would take the form of “an agreed outcome with legal force”.

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Durban Climate Talks Produce Imperfect Deals

Negotiators at the U.N. climate conference in South Africa have approved a package of agreements to combat global climate change.

While the deal is a step forward, observers say more should have been accomplished.

After hours of political wrangling and compromise on all sides, delegates emerged from an all-night session Sunday with a way forward on climate change.

Going into the last-minute negotiations, the South African president of the conference, Maite Nkoana Mashabane told delegates the package of deals would not please everyone.

“I think we all realize they’re not perfect, but we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good and the possible,” he said.

Among the biggest achievements was the approval of a European Union plan to negotiate a future legal deal to combat climate change.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard lobbied fiercely for the so-called EU “roadmap,” saying, “We are on the brink, it is within our reach to get what the world is waiting for and what only few thought would happen now: a legally binding deal,” said Hedegaard.

The agreement calls for parties to end negotiations on a future pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 and to implement the new regime no later than 2020.

Emotions ran high in the middle-of-the-night plenary session about plans for the future agreement.

Karl Hood of Grenada, representing a coalition of small island states took issue with the language in the draft text, which did not specify what legal form the agreement would take.

“And if there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions then, Madame Chair, I’m saying that we are relegating vulnerable economies to the whims and fancies of beautiful words like ‘self-determination’ like ‘access to development'; while they develop, we die in the process,” said Hood.

The future deal will replace the Kyoto Protocol – an existing legal framework that was enacted in 2007 and was due to expire next year.

Governments that are part of Kyoto, including the EU, agreed in Durban to a second commitment period to the protocol that will last five to eight years, though Russia, Japan and Canada have said they will not take part.

The conference did not produce any immediate promises to further cut emissions blamed for climate change.

Tim Gore, the climate policy advisor for Oxfam, said developing countries will not benefit much from the deals passed here in Durban.

“They didn’t get a great deal out of this, I think this was largely an agreement which was struck between the big boys, between the U.S., the European Union, perhaps some of the emergency economies did a deal on a future legal agreement, and that’s significant, but it hasn’t necessarily delivered the action that the very poorest countries, and the poorest people within them, need here and now,” said Gore.

Parties also agreed in Durban to put into operation a Green Climate Fund, which is to provide assistance to developing nations for environmental projects.  However, there was no agreement on how to actually finance the Fund, so, for the time being it remains an empty shell.

Some of these issues will likely be addressed again at the U.N. climate conference next year in Qatar.

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Deal in Doubt as Durban Talks Wind Down December 10, 2011

Time is running out for a major deal to tackle climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in South Africa, and observers say the world’s biggest emitters are continuing to hold up progress on a new agreement to cut emissions.

Delegates at COP17 are continuing to work on details of a European Union proposal toward a new global commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The so-called EU “roadmap” would set a deadline for a new deal to be agreed to by 2015 and to be implemented by 2020.

With few hours left to negotiate, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said compromises must be reached.

“If there is no further movement from what I have seen until four o’clock this morning, then I must say I don’t think there will be a deal in Durban,” said Hedegaard.

But, she added, all hope is not lost.

“Now it’s not the first time in a COP that [by] Thursday night you’d not have the deal,” she said. “So that is why I emphasize there still is time to move and I must say there have been a lot of constructive talks.”

The European Union issued a joint statement with a grouping of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Association of Small Island States, supporting the European roadmap and calling for more ambitious action from other countries.

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said development and similar statements from other countries are encouraging, but that more ambition is needed.

“Everything seems possible today, but it’s not done. We have a lot more work to get done,” he said. “But it’s on the table [and] we’ve seen movement. The developments I talked about with the small island state coalition and the LDCs and the movements from South Africa and Brazil are encouraging, but without the U.S., China and India, they’re not enough.”

The EU has indicated that the world’s three biggest polluters, China, India and the United States, have been slowing down the pace of negotiations on a roadmap to a future agreement.

Hedegaard said the major sticking points are what legal form the final agreement would take and whether there will be a two-track arrangement so that some countries are legally bound while others commit to voluntary emissions cuts.

Other negotiations are continuing on a proposal to provide $100 billion in long-term financing to developing nations for environmental projects. So far delegates have only begun sorting out the terms of the deal, with no reported progress on how to actually finance it.

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EU Claims Progress on Climate ‘Roadmap’ at Durban December 2, 2011

As the first week of negotiations at the U.N. climate change conference  in South Africa comes to a close, the European Union says support is growing for a new legally-binding agreement to cut emissions.  But the United States and other countries remain strongly opposed to the idea.

EU negotiators are urging other parties at the COP17 climate talks in Durban to agree to a “roadmap” that would lead to a climate treaty that would legally bind governments to cut emissions blamed for climate change.

The Polish head of the EU delegation, Tomasz Chruszczow, said there is growing support for such a measure.

“Many parties see that the goal of keeping the global warming within the limits, within two degrees, requires urgent action,” said Chruszczow.” And extreme weather events on the ground and that warning contained in the recent spate of reports from international institutions and organizations made it very hard to escape this kind of conclusion.”

The EU proposal would follow the current legal framework established under the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire next year. The EU wants  the parties at COP17 to agree to establish a new treaty by 2015 that would go into effect by 2020.

Recent reports support the EU’s argument that further cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, are necessary to keep global temperatures from increasing to dangerous levels.

The International Energy Agency has warned that the world has about five years left to significantly cut carbon emissions in order to prevent irreversible climate change.

The European Union is trying to convince developing countries to sign on to such an agreement.

EU negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger noted the EU’s success with the current program, saying the EU’s emissions have dropped below 1990 levels while overall, the continent’s economy has continued to grow.

“Because a lot of fear that is in this process is about ‘I can either fight climate change or I can grow my economy,’ but we can show, and that’s a big example here, that we can do both at the same time,” he said.

The United States did not adopt the Kyoto Protocol, and U.S. climate negotiators have said they will not support a legal mandate to cut emissions without knowing the details of such an agreement.

Commenting on the EU’s proposed roadmap, U.S. deputy climate change envoy Jonathan Pershing said it would have to bind all parties equally.

“We’re not looking for a mechanism in which we would have an obligation to reduce emissions of a legal form and the major emerging economies would have a voluntary program,” said Pershing. “That’s kind of the Kyoto structure.  We are not a party to Kyoto, in no small measure, because of that constraint.”

The United States has argued that the voluntary emissions reductions that governments agreed to at the last climate conference in Cancun, Mexico are unlikely to change over the coming years.

The U.S. has been trying to start discussions, instead, on what can be done after 2020.

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