October 28, 2010

EU leaders to affirm nuanced stance on Kyoto extension

Today @ 08:22 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday (28 October) and Friday are to rubberstamp the bloc's negotiating position for the international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, later this year.

Hopes for a global deal on greenhouse gas emissions remain slim after last December's acrimonious UN talks in Copenhagen.

Economic governance issues are set to dominate the summit (Photo: EU Commission)

But EU environment ministers earlier this month already signalled Europe's willingness to commit to a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period, provided certain conditions are met.

Developing countries, while pointing out serious flaws, see the protocol's emission-cutting commitments for most rich nations (so-called Annex I states) as being better than no agreement at all. The US never signed Kyoto. China, despite its rapidly-developing coal-fired economy, is also not obliged to make cuts.

According to draft conclusions seen by this website, EU leaders will on Thursday and Friday say that: "The European Council ... confirms the willingness to consider a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol provided the conditions ... are met."

The protocol is set to stay in life post 2012 but failure to agree new targets would render it meaningless.
Among the list of EU pre-conditions, environment ministers indicated a second commitment period for rich nations should be complemented by a separate deal, outlining obligations for non-Annex-I countries.
Debate in Cancun later this year (29 Nov - 10 Dec) is likely to focus on whether the EU will push for such a deal to be agreed before it signs a second Kyoto commitment period or whether a non-binding pledge by non-Annex-I countries will suffice.

"The EU should not wait for the US," Greenpeace climate activist Joris den Blanken told EUobserver. "It should commit to a second commitment period, together with additional actions for countries such as China and India."

EU leaders in their draft conclusions also address the issue of fast-track funding for developing states to fight climate change. The bloc has pre-agreed to give €2.4 billion a year between 2010-2012, but European finance ministers are still working out the details of individual member state contributions.

"Developing states are waiting to hear where the money will come from exactly, whether it is new or not, and how it will be transferred," said Mr den Blanken.

Brussels-based officials foresee little debate on the climate issue at this week's summit, with questions of economic governance and potential treaty changes likely to dominate proceedings instead.

"I think it will be a simple political endorsement of the rather difficult-to-agree environment council conclusions [from] earlier this month," a senior diplomat from a large member state said on Wednesday.

The EU's unilateral position on carbon emissions is also unlikely to change. The bloc has agreed to cut emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels over the next decade, moving to 30 percent only if other developed countries also increase their ambition.

"You can't rule out some member state wanting to open the summit conclusions to include stronger language on committing to a second Kyoto period or a move to 30 percent," said the senior diplomat, while indicating that the prospect is distinctly unlikely.