Industrialised nations not committing enough at climate talks: UN official

May 26th, 2009 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

By Joydeep Gupta
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Industrialised countries are not making greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments “to match the scale of reductions being put on the table” by developing countries, a senior UN official has said, as the negotiating text for a crucial climate treaty is put on the table this week.

John Ashe, who chairs the ad hoc working group on further commitments for industrialised countries under the Kyoto Protocol, said Monday: “If you take the individual target proposals tabled by Annex I countries so far, they don’t match the scale of reductions being put on the table by the non-Annex I Parties.”

Annex I countries are industrialised nations which made mandatory commitments under the protocol to reduce their GHG emissions and now have to make further commitments beyond 2012, when the first commitment period of the protocol ends. Non-Annex I parties are developing countries which do not have to make any such commitment. Ashe’s comments have been published on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Emissions of GHG, mainly carbon dioxide by industry and transport, are leading to climate change, which in turn is already reducing farm output and increasing both the frequency and severeity of droughts, floods and storms, apart from raising the sea level. Developing countries, including India, are the worst affected.

Asked what was slowing the climate negotiations, Ashe said: “There are some chicken-and-egg situations scattered throughout the negotiations. For example, some Annex I parties won’t make reduction commitments until they know what their allowances will be from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF.) However, I am confident that in Copenhagen we can put the final pieces in place.” A new multilateral deal for the post-2012 period is expected to be signed at the next UNFCCC summit in Copenhagen this December.

What does he expect in the preparatory talks in Bonn starting June 1? Ashe replied: “We now have negotiating texts containing concrete options on the table. It would be good if in June we can complete some of the more solvable issues so that we can then focus on the more difficult ones. Some countries are simply not willing to put numbers on the table until there is clarity on issues like LULUCF or the Kyoto mechanisms, such as emissions trading and the clean development mechanism, as they are interrelated. So I don’t think we will see numbers on the table until Copenhagen, but we need to begin that conversation.”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, chair of the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action under the UN convention, said the negotiating text prepared for the Bonn meet was “quite messy…But we have tried to keep a balance between comprehensiveness and readability, without going into too much detail”.

Cutajar said he started preparing the text from the Bali Action Plan, “which has five elements: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology, finance…I put adaptation, the all-embracing subject, first; then mitigation as the way to limit the amount of adaptation you have to do; and finally financing, technology and capacity-building as means to enable you to both mitigate and adapt.

“For developing countries in particular, there is a very strong wish to find a way of having a greater impact on the way technology is developed and the way it flows, the way it is transferred in the real economy.”

What would constitute success at the June talks? Cutajar replied: “The June session must get down to drafting the elements of the agreed outcome and thereby, hopefully, to narrowing down differences. We must sense movement in June towards agreement on substance. However, June is too early to set benchmarks for substantive achievement or for agreement on legal form. Once there is political agreement on essentials, the form will follow.

“What are the essentials: Firstly, a fair deal between developed and developing countries that will raise the level of mitigation action by both groups to new heights of ambition. Secondly, an ambitious and innovative package of financial, technological and capacity-building support for the mitigation efforts of developing countries. And thirdly, equally ambitious support for the adaptation efforts of these countries. Adaptation is the priority issue for most of them; they need ambitious mitigation action to limit the adaptation challenge.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at

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