U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres lauded a climate change meeting in Panama as “good progress” this weekend, even as environmental activists warned that the world’s only structure for curbing greenhouse gas emissions appears about to crumble.
The next time diplomats meet, it will be in Durban, South Africa, in December for the year’s final climate change summit. There, countries must finally decide what they have put off for several years: the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
“South Africa is the tipping point in terms of the future of the climate regime,” said Tasneem Essop, international climate policy advocate for the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa.
The 1997 treaty requires carbon emission cuts from industrialized countries, and the first phase of the agreement ends in 2012. Developing countries are adamant that a second commitment period is non-negotiable. Moreover, they insist any follow-up should closely hew to the original agreement: Wealthy countries must agree unilaterally to cut steeper emissions, and poorer ones would cut carbon voluntarily after financial assistance from the rich.
“Much as some rich countries like to repeat that discussing scenarios that they oppose is not ‘realistic’ or ‘practical,’ they must recognize that there is no point in insisting on a solution outside of the Kyoto Protocol when 132 parties have strongly declared that they can only accept a second commitment period as a meaningful outcome,” Jorge Argüello of Argentina, speaking for the G-77 group of developing countries, said in a statement.