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Climate hope clouded

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Rich nations reluctant to continue carbon-cut legal binding

THE lush green stretches of pocket forests and the lapping blue ocean of Durban belie the heat already generated at the climate conference as prospects of a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol — the only legal binding on carbon emission — look set to fall apart. Inam Ahmed, who is covering the COP 17, writes in The Daily Star.

As Canada has threatened to pull out of its obligation to cut emission — Russia and Japan had earlier done the same — the European Union has said it would not remain pledge-bound unless other countries, especially the US, China and India committed themselves.

In Durban, all countries known as ‘parties’ have been asking Canada to clarify its position on a withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol. And the US is further pouring cold water on the protocol as it says it will not think of committing anything before 2020.

In such a grave mood, the Africa Group representing the whole continent told the conference that it did not want Africa to be the ‘graveyard’ of Kyoto. The Least Developed Countries and small island states voiced their strong wish for a continuation of the protocol.

Tosi Ampanu, chairman of the African group, said, “We don’t want to become a graveyard of KP (Kyoto Protocol) because it is a question of life and death.”

When the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, 37 countries which committed to cut emission represented 60 percent of the total global commission. But with the rise of emission from countries like India, China, South Africa and Brazil, the share of emission of these 37 countries has gone down to 30 percent.

So the logic these 37 countries are putting forward is that if these new polluters are brought into the agreement, it would be meaningless for them to go ahead with their emission cut commitment.

The second area of tension centres around the global climate fund. A transitional committee has been able to come up with a document despite objections from the US and Saudi Arabia. South Africa is trying to get the document approved at the Durban conference by withdrawing the objections. Otherwise, the fate of the fund will also be uncertain.

India has threw down another gauntlet when it reiterated its stance that it was emitting far less carbon per person than the US or even the global average. The US emits 20 tonnes per person while the figure for India is 1.3 tonnes against the global average of 2 tonnes. So India argues that it should be allowed to emit 0.7 tonnes more per person.

But that means a huge total emission from India and will pose new difficulties in capping temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius of pre-industrial era.

But as things go today (Tuesday), analysts feel that all countries are playing up their highest posturing positions so that as the negotiations continue over the following days, they will have space for negotiation.

“The host country South Africa and the UNFCC are trying to advance a few things such as the finance mechanism and formation of adaptation and technology transfer committees,” said Dr Ainun Nishat, one of the negotiators on the Bangladesh team. “But progress is slow, before the ministers meet next week.”


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