The last intersessional international climate negotiations before the major conference in Durban ended today in Panama with modest progress made on some issues like the structure of a financing mechanism to help poor countries cope with climate change.
But major movement on what to do when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends next year and how to bring large emitters like the United States and China into an agreement on long-term emissions reduction actions has remained elusive.
At his closing press conference, US lead negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, said that his country does “not believe conditions are ripe for a mandate in Durban for a legally binding agreement. For our part we can only consider an agreement with equal legal force to all the major economies.”
This means that the US will not engage in anything legally binding without developing country emitters like China and India agreeing to binding reductions in the growth of their emissions as well.
Those emerging economic powers, however, are quite content with the Kyoto architecture which creates a two-tier system whereby the historic Western emitters are solely responsible for reductions.
At the closing plenary developing country after developing country argued for a continuation of Kyoto after its 2012 expiration.
Going into Durban, the expectations have got to be modest. The negotiating text on what to do with Kyoto is an unwieldy 49 pages long with such divergent options that it seems like the accounts of the 2007 Bali conference could equally apply to the proceedings in Panama.
Pershing tried to be upbeat at his news conference today about the financing architecture that is taking form, but on the fundamental issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions he observed: “I don’t see any meeting of the minds of the issues.”