Bonn, Germany – On Monday, a two-week long round of UN climate negotiations, lasting from June 6 to June 17, 2011, kicked off in Bonn, Germany. The talks will prepare for the way for the COP 17, which takes place November 28, 2011 to December 9, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.
Over 3000 participants from 183 countries, doing their best to avoid the E. Coli scare currently sweeping Germany, are in attendance.
The work before the group is clear. Last week, the International Energy Agency announced that emissions continue to increase unabated. Emissions released in 2010 were the highest in history, despite the economic recession. The report stated that the “prospect of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius is getting bleaker.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the level of CO2 emissions released in May 2010 set another record high.
UN member nations have gathered to set emissions reductions for developed and developing nations; to secure funding and technology to help developing nations adapt to climate change; and to decide how emissions reductions will be measured, reported and verified.
The future of the Kyoto Protocol forms a topic of considerable concern at this meeting. It is currently the sole legally binding international treaty that establishes targets for reducing emissions. And it needs to be signed up for a second renewable period post-2012.
To date, no meeting is scheduled subsequent to Bonn and prior to Durban, South Africa at the end of the year, so time is of the essence and the pressure is on.
Delegates representing the majority of countries — including the G77, the EU, the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries, the Africa Group, and ALBA – support a second renewal period. Canada, Japan and Russia, by contrast, have announced that they will not sign on to renew.
Talks Stall: Bolivia Criticizes Cancún Agreement, REDD and Market-Mechanisms
The preparatory negotiations take place on two tracks: the ad hoc working group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action (AWG-LCA).
On Tuesday, these two working groups were to kick off their work. But the beginning of each meeting was deferred again and again, as negotiators met behind closed doors, trying to agree on the agendas.
A number of countries expressed concerns about different agenda items, including Canada and New Zealand; Saudi Arabia; Papua New Guinea; Bolivia; and Ecuador. Most of their concerns were quickly addressed.
Pablo Sólon, Bolivia’s lead climate envoy, criticized the stalling, calling the previous meeting in Bangkok in April, the $6 million agenda, underscoring that all that was discussed was the agenda and no headway was made on generating a draft text for negotiation in South Africa.
Given that there is no time to draft a new binding agreement before Durban, Sólon told journalists, there were two options heading into the COP 17: “Move forward in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol or have a repetition of Cancún.”
“From Cancún,” Sólon told journalists, “we have come out with commitments of emissions reductions that leads us to a scenario of [a temperature increase of] 4 degrees Celsius. And that is absolutely unacceptable. We need to come out of South Africa with commitments of emissions reductions that will put us in a scenario of [temperature increases] between 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to preserve our planet and life as we know it.”
Additionally, Sólon took a strong stance against Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). Sólon stated that the main objection resided in the approach to forests. “There is a proposal in the Cancún agreement that focuses everything on … guidelines in the capacity of forests to capture CO2 ,” he said. “We must not focus on how to prepare forests for a market mechanism … We must fight deforestation now.”
He stated: “We cannot spend the money that we have now … trying to measure the amount of carbon that a forest stores, in order to prepare the conditions for a future carbon market on forests. What we need do is to spend the small amount of resources that we have to preserve forests now.
“In the case of Bolivia, but it is also the case in many other countries,” Sólon said, “one of the main drivers of deforestation is forest fires. In Bolivia, we usually have forest fires between July and September. Are we going to spend the money, the aid that we receive, measuring the capacity of our forests when it comes to capture of CO2 or are we going to direct all those resources to the implementation of a plan that we have developed to fight those forest fires that have an impact over 350,000 hectares every year?
A new proposal has been developed to address these concerns. Sólon said he hoped that it would form part of the official negotiating text.
Funding Climate Aid through Financial Tax
Lastly, Sólon proposed the creation of an international tax to fund climate aid, underscoring that the $30 billion in fast track funding pledged by 2008-2012 has not been provided yet, not in new funding.
A tax of 0.01 percent coming into a country from abroad could go towards this fund and be used to address climate change. According to Bloomberg News, this proposal “picks up on one [made] by a UN panel last November. The group, which included billionaire investor George Soros and Larry Summers … said an international financial transactions tax could generate $27 billion a year.”
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist who covers climate change, international negotiations and energy policy. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Earth Island Journal, Environment News Service, Grist, In These Times, The Nation and The Progressive.