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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Key COP17 Issues » The Kyoto Roadblock Explained

The Kyoto Roadblock Explained

By Timothy Damon ’12

The AWG-LCA Chair encourages national delegates to reach an agreement for the COP

In my previous post about Long Term action, I addressed some disagreement last week involving the USA, EU, and China. Since that time, I have observed several more sessions of the AWG-LCA which offer further insight into the areas of contention in the negotiations for a continuation of a legally binding instrument (LBI) for national GHG reduction commitments. Consideration of several such key points follows.

One of the most important phrases on the table is “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CDR-RC – yes, we love our acronyms at the COP). This phrase essentially means that different countries have different capacities to take action on climate change; consequently, expectations under any agreement should not ask more of any party than what they can reasonably do. This concept originated back at the founding of the UNFCCC and is the main argument developing countries draw upon when insisting they be required to do less than developed countries with more resources. In the current situation, CDR-RC manifests itself as the expectation for the global North to undertake a second set of KP commitments (or ones under a new protocol), while the South remains unenthusiastic about binding itself as well.

From the developed country side, the expectation is for any new agreement on LBI to recognize the “modern economic reality” (no, this one does not get acronym status). This phrase is really code for “the rapidly developing countries are now making lots of emissions so they need to be included in reductions targets too”. Obviously this is most directed at China, India, Brazil, and other “rapidly developing” countries. It is true these countries have increased their emissions greatly and that this trend is continuing, making the above expectation reasonable. Yet the phrase overlooks the fact that emissions per person in these countries are still on the low end and are increasing as development spreads to improve peoples’ lives. Thus, CDR-RC is still a necessary consideration.

These are just two of the main issues at the heart of the KP and LBI negotiations. Though there are still other important ones, together these two offer insight into the perspectives of both developed and developing countries. So far there have been encouraging signs and discouraging ones in the COP17 negotiations. As we move into the final few days in Durban, how the high-level government representatives mediate these issues will be critical to determining the final outcome. Hopefully they will reach an agreement that prevents the KP from “dying on African soil”. More updates to follow.


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