The outcome of contentious negotiations taking place in Durban — punctuated by finger pointing among the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters and heckling by activists — reflected a fundamental shift in the geopolitics behind global environmental disputes.
Developing countries have long been a unified bloc, demanding that industrialized nations take most of the responsibility for cutting global greenhouse gas emissions. But faced with the fact that a handful of emerging economies — led by China and India — are helping drive carbon emissions to new heights, the world’s smallest nations joined forces with the European Union to demand decisive action from their former allies as well as the United States.
The Durban agreement provides countries with the latitude to forge something that would apply to all nations, called an “agreed outcome with legal force,” a last-minute compromise that creates a less stringent alternative to a traditional treaty. Several experts said such an agreement would be stronger than the voluntary accords reached last year in Cancun, Mexico.”
"What will happen when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of next year?
This paper for the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements analyzes the options going forward, including adoption of a legally-binding second commitment period, a “political” second commitment period, or no new commitment period.
It considers the legal implications of a gap between the end of Kyoto’s first commitment period and the adoption of a new legal regime to limit emissions, the prospects for the Clean Development Mechanism in the absence of a second Kyoto commitment period, and the relationship between the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and the emerging regime under the Cancun Agreements.
It concludes that a transitional regime, involving a second commitment period that is politically but not legally binding, represents a possible middle ground that could complement efforts under the Cancun Agreements to develop a flexible, evolutionary framework of climate governance.”
Laying the groundwork to renew the Kyoto Protocol.
"International climate negotiators are meeting in Panama from October 1 -7 in a final round of talks prior to the next Conference of the Parties (“COP”) meeting in Durban, South Africa.
The meeting, formally known as the third part of the 16th Session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 16) and the third part of the 14th Session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 14), will set the stage for the larger meeting in Durban.
Negotiators in Panama are hoping to make progress on a variety of issues that they hope will pave the way for additional progress and formal agreements in Durban. In particular, negotiations in Panama are expected to focus on developing a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, developing a framework for a tax on the use of bunker fuels in international shipping to finance adaptation costs in developing countries and enhancing measurement, reporting and verification (“MRV”) guidelines and procedures.
Reports from the opening days of the conference indicate that negotiators are focusing on “transitional arrangements” that would bridge the gap to a comprehensive climate regime to begin in the next 3-7 years. There appears to be a tacit recognition on the part of the negotiators that there are currently too many significant political and legal issues standing in the way of reaching a comprehensive agreement in Durban, and thus an interim agreement will be necessary to ensure further progress.
The UNFCCC’s official, daily guide to the meetings in Panama can be found at http://unfccc.int/conference_programme/items/6109.php.”
Source: Climate Law Blog
If the name looks familiar, it’s because Nobelist Stavins was lead author of the IPCC’s 2nd and 3rd reports. He’s is current lead author on the section covering international negotiations for the IPCC’s forthcoming 5th assessment. (emphasis below are not mine).
“It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.
President Barack Obama failed to get legislation through Congress that would have established a cap-and-trade system of pollution allowances to control greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. Instead, the administration is pushing regulations for carbon pollution through the Environmental Protection Agency, a far inferior approach, according to Stavins.
WASHINGTON — The US Senate on Wednesday rejected a bid to strip President Barack Obama of his power to regulate greenhouse gases, a move that could have thrown US efforts against climate change into chaos.
The Senate, where Obama’s Democratic Party holds a majority, voted 50-50 on a bill to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting standards on greenhouse gas emissions blamed for the world’s rising temperatures.
The measure required 60 votes for passage. Four Democrats broke ranks to support the measure, while a sole Republican backed the efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.