After a half-day suspension, emission reduction talks have resumed in Copenhagen, but those promoting significant action on climate change are concerned the talks are missing the point.
African countries suspended the climate talks yesterday in the face of wealthier countries’ reluctance to discuss legally binding emissions reductions.
They refused to continue negotiations unless talks on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol were prioritised ahead of broader discussions under a second negotiating track.
Australia, Japan and others succeeded in stopping Kyoto Protocol discussions as a result.
Of the two tracks of negotiations underway in Copenhagen, the Kyoto Protocol is the only one that includes a mechanism for legally binding emissions reductions by rich countries.
But crucially, the US had not ratified the Kyoto agreement.
Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs said the African countries had been trying “to avoid a train crash.” (Oxfam was liaising closely with government delegations at the talks.)
“Poor countries want to see an outcome which guarantees sharp emissions reductions yet rich countries are trying to delay discussions on the only mechanism we have to deliver this – the Kyoto Protocol,” Mr Hobbs said.
“This not about blocking the talks – it is about whether rich countries are ready to guarantee action on climate change and the survival of people in Africa and across the world.
“We know what is needed: sharp emissions cuts, $200bn a year in new money to help poor countries tackle climate change and guarantees of action. We will have more than 100 of the world’s most powerful people in one place. We have a golden opportunity to avert climate disaster. It must not be wasted.”
Where New Zealand stands
Prime Minister John Key was expected to leave for the Copenhagen leaders’ summit today, but publicly he has been more hopeful for a moral agreement to tackle climate change being made at the conference than for a legal one.
He had previously said New Zealand could not meet the target of returning emissions to below its 1990 levels, which were 24% lower than current levels, in the suggested timeframe.
In August the Government announced it was aiming for a 10-20% reduction by 2020. Developing countries at the talks were calling for 40-45% cuts in emissions.
New Zealand has also signed onto the Port of Spain declaration, which offered $10 billion per year by 2012 as fast start financing for developing countries, and recognised that funding climate change-related problems in developing countries should be new and separate to existing aid commitments.
For a chart showing what developing and developed countries, including New Zealand, have put on the table so far in the negotiations, click here.