“Without exaggeration, we can say: the future of our planet is at stake — people’s lives, the health of the global economy, the very survival of some nations,” Ban told environment ministers at the start of a four-day meeting on Tuesday.
“I urge you to carefully consider a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. In the absence of a global binding climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol is the closest we have,” he said.
The conference under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has until Friday to determine the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding treaty for curbing dangerous greenhouse gases.
Meanwhile, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent yesterday urged the international community to turn the page on the Kyoto Protocol and to build a global climate solution around a series of agreements reached last year in Cancun.
Plunging into the debate, Ban called for Kyoto to be kept alive and scheduled meetings yesterday with the big players. “While Kyoto alone will not solve today’s climate problems, it is a foundation to build on with important institutions. It provides the framework that markets sorely need. … It is important that we do not create a vacuum.”
Kyoto’s death would leave a toxic legacy among developing countries, which see the treaty as a totem of solidarity between rich and poor, and leave the UNFCCC with only a voluntary approach for taming carbon emissions.
Kyoto’s first round of emissions pledges expires next year. But these promises apply only to rich countries, not developing ones, nor do they concern the United States, which boycotted Kyoto in 2001.
Rich Kyoto countries are refusing to sign on for fresh commitments, saying this would be unfair if far bigger emitters, accounting for more than half of all carbon pollution, get off the hook.
Chances of a deal lie in a proposal made by the European Union, which has offered to sign up for a second round of commitments in return for a “roadmap” to a new, legally binding pact encompassing the big carbon polluters, notably China and the United States.
Hopes of movement were raised on Sunday when China signalled willingness — linked with conditions — to embrace a future binding accord after 2020.
But on Tuesday, optimism faded.
Canada has been publicly and privately criticised by other countries at the conference for refusing to support extending the Kyoto agreement beyond 2013 by accepting a new round of commitments.
“We must be fair if we are to be effective,” Montreal Gazette quoted Environment Minister Kent as saying. “That is why for Canada, the Kyoto Protocol is not where the solution lies — it is an agreement that covers fewer than 30 percent of global emissions. Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past.”
He noted that the Cancun Agreements cover three quarters of global emissions, twice as much as those with targets under Kyoto. Kyoto agreement is not effective or as comprehensive as all of the Cancun agreements which established a new framework for preventing dangerous human interference with the atmosphere.
Delegates have also been angered by rumours, neither confirmed nor denied by Kent, that the federal government plans to formally withdraw from the treaty after the conference, the Canadian website added.
The speech was momentarily disrupted when a small group of Canadian youth at the conference stood up and turned their backs to Kent from the rear of the room. Wearing white T-shirts with the words “people before polluters,” and “turn your back on Canada,” they were escorted out by security to applause as Kent continued his address.