As is normal with the international climate negotiations, progress has been slow this first week in Cancún. With expections for a substantive agreement at a low point and major issues between developed and large developing countries still evident, it is perhaps to be expected that movement towards agreement would be elusive.
Although the breadth of issues where gaps exist is large, one major fissure that was exposed this week was the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Japan’s announcement early in the week that it would not agree to a second commitment period for the Protocol is seen as a dramatic abandonment of the only global legal instrument in place to deal with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. If Japan isn’t committed to the treaty negotiated on its own soil, then why should anyone else?
This position has generated animosity–particularly from China–who insists on second period.
For the United States–which is not a party to Kyoto–the concern is that the dispute over Kyoto will derail any limited progress that has been made. US negotiators have been unrelenting in their support for the Copenhagen Accord–the political document that emerged from last year’s talks.
Although it is unlikely that the voluntary commitments laid out in the accord will be sufficient enough to meet the accord’s target to limit global warming to 2 degrees, senior US negotiators have said that they would rather start with a set of ambitions that are agreed upon in theory and then strengthen them, instead of seeing talks fail.
In the background are revelations from the WikiLeaks cables documenting developed country duplicity in climate talks over the past two years. Just as was the case last year, there are rumors of a “secret text” that will kill the Kyoto Protocol.
While that may or may not be the case, there is expected to be released today a more refined document based on the negotiations that have taken place over the past several days. What is included or excluded from that text will set the contours for next week’s discussions.