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The first commitment period ending soon: the urgency of compromise

Ekaterina Uspenskaya

On Sunday, April 3, a sequential United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change session opened in Bangkok, where the parties are to discuss the implementation of Cancun agreements to this date.

So far the international climate talks within UNFCCC have not resulted in any comprehensive agreement dealing with the post-Kyoto period after 2012 that could replace the now existing protocol. KP’s first commitment period runs out in 2012 and as of today there is no clarity as to how the interaction between the parties will develop in order to solve climate-related issues. It is expected that the Bangkok meeting will clarify certain points that are important now in the run-up to the next UNFCCC conference in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011.

Russian delegation to Cancun in December 2012 officially expressed strong dissent concerning the prolongation of Kyoto to the next period. The formal excuse was that it had no sense given the non-participation of the United States, which is one of the world’s top GHG emitters. This decision, however, could not conceal the attempts to lobby the interests of Russian hydrocarbon monopolies.

The negotiations have been complicated by Japan and Canada opposing the so-called automatic prolongation of KP. They refused to take upon themselves additional commitments to reduce GHG emissions after 2012.

On the contrary, developing countries, namely India and China, the ALBA block and AOSIS claim that the second commitment period of the only existing and legally binding agreement is of vital importance. Even Bolivia’s Evo Morales who have repeatedly criticized the market tools of the Protocol, responsibly declared that the rejection of Kyoto may lead to an ecocide, which means lots of deaths in climate-vulnerable regions of the worlds. Thus, the main goal of the following negotiations is to reach a compromise between developing and developed countries.
Russia, even though it is far from the North-South collisions, has to find a way to reach a compromise between their own last-year’s position and the option of staying away from all the benefits of using Kyoto mechanisms.
Some of those are already being implemented in practice, the first example being, of course, the JI projects approved by Sberbank. It is no secret that Kyoto mechanisms are far from being perfect. But while the Kyoto protocol remains, according to Christiana Figueres, the only working international model to reduce emissions, is would be sheer absurdity to refuse to use it and put to death all the Kyoto-based developments in the country,
Furthermore, usually the ratification process of any decisions of the international level (in order to implement then into the real policies) takes 2 to 3 years on average. In case there existed an alternative to KP, it would have had to be adopted in Copenhagen the latest, in order to prevent the gap thus causing crisis for the whole framework of flexible mechanism process.

In the nearest time the replacement of KP with any other document seems virtually unreal. Russia could possibly come up with proposals concerning the steps that need to be done in order to ensure a smooth transition to the second commitment period with consideration to Russia’s national interests.

According to Olga Senova, head of RSEU Climate Secretariat, “Russia needs to support the existing international mechanisms that are able to stimulate low-carbon energy development and to use all our influence to reach a new more consistent agreement where all the drawbacks of the predecessor are taken into account”. The Durban Summit is the last chance to clarify on the conditions in which flexible mechanisms will operate and to how the entire world carbon market will function.

In this situation the role of environmental NGOs comes to the forefront. We need to lobby the solutions that would help use Kyoto mechanisms in the most effective manner, providing benefits both for Russian economy and in combating climate change. To this end, RSEU stands for supporting the prolongation of Kyoto legal framework and asks the Russia delegation to change their last year’s position and to facilitate KP prolongation while providing necessary corrections and additions.