Bloomberg News

Climate Talks Open in Panama With Calls to Extend Kyoto Accord

October 01, 2011

Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Envoys meeting for United Nations climate talks must find a way to extend the world’s only treaty capping greenhouse gases, which is at risk of expiring, environmental groups said as sessions began in Panama City.

The future of the 1997 Kyoto protocol is the most important issue during the Panama talks that opened today, according to Tasneem Essop, international climate-policy advocate for the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa. Progress is needed now if an agreement on extending the pact is to be concluded during negotiations that begin Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa, Essop said.

“We wouldn’t want Durban or South Africa to be the place where we bury the Kyoto Protocol,” Essop said today at a news conference in Panama City. “We need parties to in fact understand the risks involved in not coming to Durban with clear decisions about the future of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Kyoto’s initial phase, ending next year, binds 35 nations and the European Union to reduce emissions by a collective 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Japan, Russia and Canada say they won’t take part in a second phase unless the accord is expanded to bind China, which has become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the U.S., which never ratified the agreement.

The European Union favors an extension provided developing nations become part of a broader regime to control greenhouse gases, said Alden Meyer, an observer attending the UN talks for the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists. Informal meetings are under way between the EU and the G77, which includes 130 developing nations and China, Meyer said.

‘Conversations Going On’

“We know these conversations are going on,” Meyer said. “Both sides in those conversations support the Kyoto Protocol.”

Todd Stern, the State Department official who will lead the U.S. delegation at the Durban talks, said last month a political agreement on extending Kyoto is possible.

“Of the major players my sense is that the EU is the only one that is still considering signing up in some fashion to a second Kyoto commitment period,” Stern said on a Sept. 19 conference call with reporters. “There could also be a decision taken in Durban that is less formal in nature to abide by those targets.”

The Alliance of Small Island States, which includes nations threatened by rising sea levels, said stronger targets on carbon dioxide from factories and power plants are needed to prevent warming of 3 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times. Such change would inundate many island states, said Ambassador Dessima Williams, permanent representative for Grenada to the UN and head of the group.

“Countries that are serious about addressing climate change should be using this meeting to raise, not lower, expectations for Durban,” Williams said in a statement. “It is high time for leaders to step forward and guarantee the continuity of the Kyoto Protocol.”

The Panama City talks are scheduled to continue through Oct. 7.

--Editors: Larry Liebert, Sylvia Wier

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Efstathiou Jr. in Panama City at jefstathiou@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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