In Durban an intensive first week of negotiations culminated on Friday with the release of a new ‘roadmap’ from the EU, outlining plans to extend the Kyoto Protocol and agree a parallel legally binding treaty that will set emissions reductions targets for all countries
However as ministers gather today observers have again warned that long running talks to reach an international agreement on climate change are at risk of collapse.
The EU is proposing that a new treaty be agreed by 2015 and enacted by 2020, delivering binding commitments from all countries to curb emissions.
Significantly, despite reservations among many developing nations that they could end up facing demanding emission reduction targets, the plan has secured high-profile support from the group of 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the 42-strong Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
Writing on Twitter this morning, EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: “Good news from Durban. LDCs & AOSIS think along the same lines as EU on the roadmap. The world doesn’t need more time to reflect, but decisions.”
China’s lead negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, also signalled late last week that the country could in principle sign up to a legally binding deal, telling environmental groups that China is “open to the process” of agreeing a new binding treaty if industrialised countries extend the Kyoto Protocol and make good on other commitments such as climate aid pledges.
A senior EU official also told The Guardian that Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil are “sympathetic” to the EU roadmap alongside China.
However, he added that India has so far completely rejected any proposals that would impose legally binding emission reduction targets, amid fears that such a move could undermine its rapid economic development.
Moreover, the US delegation has also expressed skepticism over the EU plan. One anonymous official told reporters that the US will not sign up to any roadmap without seeing more detail on what the eventual treaty will look like.
He also cast doubt on China’s willingness to agree to legally binding emissions reduction obligations.
The current state of play leaves ministers with the daunting task of mapping out a compromise agreement when China and other emerging economies will not countenance a new parallel treaty unless the Kyoto Protocol is first extended, while Japan, Russia and Canada maintain that they will not agree to a second Kyoto commitment period.
Meanwhile, India is refusing to consider a new binding treaty under any circumstances, and the US is continuing to stall the talks on several fronts amid fears that it will be unable to get any ambitious agreement through Congress.
The first week also saw little progress on the controversial plans for a new $100bn a year Green Fund, after the US and Saudi Arabia were reported to be resisting recommendations for the formation of the fund.
In related news, former head of the UN climate change secretariat Yvo de Boer offered a damning assessment of the current state of the talks, warning that the negotiations are failing to make sufficient progress.
Speaking to Associated Press in his capacity as an advisor to consultancy firm KPMG, the former Dutch diplomat said that he is “deeply concerned about where [the talks are] going, or rather where it’s not going, about the lack of progress”.
He added that he is increasingly sceptical that the long-running negotiations can deliver the scale of change necessary to build a global low carbon economy.
“I do not see the negotiating process being able to rise to that challenge, being capable of delivering on that,” he told the news agency. “I believe the sincerity on the part of world leaders is there, but it’s almost as though they do not have control of the process that’s supposed to take them there.”
Meanwhile, six Greenpeace protesters were arrested earlier today after staging a protest at a global business summit being held alongside the Durban talks.
The group broke into a Durban hotel and hung a banner from the building reading ‘Listen to the People, not the Polluters’, protesting at the involvement of carbon intensive firms at the ‘Global Business Day’.