Statement of non-governmental organizations from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine for the upcoming 17th UN Convention on Climate Change conference in Durban, South Africa

adopted at the international conference
"Public Participation in Climate and Energy Policy,"
26-28 October. St. Petersburg, Russia

We, representatives of public organizations from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, are concerned by slowing down the process of international negotiations on climate change. We believe it is important to take all necessary political, economic and other measures to prevent further negative anthropogenic influence on climate and to use every opportunity to hold global temperature increase within 1.5 degrees Celsius as compared to the pre-industrial period.

Objectively assessing the situation at the UNFCCC negotiations, we urge government delegations from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to take at the Durban talks a constructive position to address the most urgent challenges facing presently the world community at the negotiating process:

  • Development and adoption of a comprehensive international legally binding agreement.
  • Reaching agreements, under which the second period of the Kyoto Protocol will be adopted until the adoption of a comprehensive legally binding agreement.

To address these challenges, we believe that the following points are of principal importance:

  1. Negotiators shall make every effort to make the Conference of the Parties to develop a comprehensive legally binding agreement.
  2. Prior to the adoption of this agreement under the Convention, it is necessary to adopt the second period of the Kyoto Protocol. Without the second period of the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries are not willing to reciprocate and take on the commitments under the new agreement. Positive decision in Durban regarding the second period of the Kyoto Protocol will accelerate the process of negotiations on a new agreement under the UNFCCC.
  3. All countries shall contribute to achieving the already adopted global goal of retention of global temperatures within 2 degrees rise, and shall confirm appropriate strategic goals: global emissions’ reduction by 50% by 2050 and emissions’ reduction in developed countries by 80% (in accordance with actual GDP-PPP indicators).
  4. Commitments of the Republic of Belarus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 shall be at least "by 35-45% below 1990." The conflict between the recommended levels of 35-45% reductions and the development plans for the Belarusian economy shall be the reason to review these plans in order to reduce the carbon intensity of the economy, but not to make reduction commitments unreasonably low.

    Russia, by 2020, shall keep all the emissions of greenhouse gases in general and with consideration for absorption by forests not greater than 60% of 1990 levels. Russia shall adopt the following strategic goal by 2050: to reduce emissions at least by 50% of 1990 levels in total for all sources and sinks, and to strive for 80% reduction.

    Ukraine shall make a commitment to reduce by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions to the level of -55% of 1990 levels.

  5. International emissions trading shall be stopped in 2013. The presence of such a mechanism gives rise to more problems than positive results, and has no real effect in the fight against climate change. Distribution of quotas among countries in the first period of the Kyoto Protocol took place in accordance with political decisions, not based on the methodology of calculation of economic opportunities equal for all countries.
  6. Unused quotas shall not be transferred to subsequent periods of the Kyoto Protocol. The transfer of units to adjust implementation of commitments in 2015 could be addressed through project-based mechanisms (i. e., through the program approach).

    Unused quotas shall be considered as an integral part of long-term contributions in reducing global emissions in the range 1990 to 2050.

  7. In our opinion, it is necessary to preserve such flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol as Joint Implementation (JI) and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). We also believe that JI and CDM projects shall get formally assigned priorities to provide specific and valid socio-environmental benefits, first and foremost the priority for projects in renewable energy and energy efficiency implementation. All projects shall have clear and measurable positive social and environmental benefits.
  8. The current separation of the UNFCCC countries in "developed" and "developing" and the status of countries making the transition to market economy is obsolete. Determining the level of commitment must be carried out on different principles: the use of the scale of per capita GDP, carbon intensity of the economy, etc. We support the Russian proposal to regularly review the list of developed countries and donors (Appendices 1 and 2 of the UNFCCC). Determination of donors and recipients of financial and technological assistance shall reflect actual financial and economic situation in each country.
  9. While the currently used UNFCCC separation is valid, the countries with economies in transition and, above all, Russia shall recognize their responsibility to participate in financial assistance to least developed and most vulnerable countries.

    Countries with economies in transition are not eligible for financial assistance for adaptation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but financial support through bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects of international organizations and funds, aimed at strengthening the capacity, is important and appropriate.

    At this stage of technological development in our countries, access to cooperation programs on technology development, both as donors and as recipients, is also important.

  10. Nuclear power cannot be a tool to address climate change. It makes a minimal contribution in reducing emissions, but creates a number of serious long-term problems and dangerous risks.
  11. Introduction of emission charges for international aviation and maritime transport shall be an important source of financing for climate action. It is necessary to introduce charges to encourage emissions reductions, or to introduce commitments for the entire sector of international transport within the UNFCCC.
  12. We believe that, in order to reduce emissions in the aviation sector, it is necessary to introduce in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine measures on payments for emissions similar to the ones adopted in the EU. It is important that the funds were directed to specific programs in our countries and were used transparently and efficiently. Necessary is legislative restriction of increases in prices for flights due to introduction of charges, so that this economic burden was assigned to carriers, not end consumers.

  13. In forestry and land use, measures leading to destruction of natural ecosystems or to replacement of natural ecosystems by artificial ones shall not be allowed. For example, it is inadmissible to position cutting old-growth forests and replacing them with artificial plantations as methods to combat climate change.

Countries must ensure preservation of ecosystemic functions both of tropical and boreal forests, temperate forests, wetland systems and permafrost, including through the new agreement. We emphasize that forests and swamps are not only regulators for processes associated with the greenhouse effect, but also support natural river flows, in particular, in the Arctic Ocean drainage area, which plays a key role in shaping regional and global climate change. In addition, boreal forests are ancestral habitat of indigenous peoples that live closely with nature and are most impacted by climate change.

Of particular importance for our countries is scientifically sound, clear and transparent accounting of absorption and emission of greenhouse gases by terrestrial ecosystems, including forests, soils, wetlands and peat bogs.

Current plans for further large-scale Belarusian drainage of natural wetlands to increase extraction of peat in order to provide raw material and energy for existing enterprises shall be considered as an example of inconsistency in national climate policy.

Drawing attention to Russia's proposal to introduce the "force majeure" concept, according to which the inventories of GHG emissions shall not take into account emissions generated as a result of emergencies, such as forest fires, NGOs from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine offer to exclude in calculations of absorption and emission of GHGs only the emissions generated as a result of natural disaster of force majeure. Agreement on “force majeure” concept shall not excuse for inaction of countries, for example, fires in Russia in the summer of 2010 caused by direct errors in forest management and drawbacks in legislation.

It shall not be permitted to use genetically modified plants to produce biofuels, to capture greenhouse gases, as well as for other measures to achieve climate goals.

We also note that the system of making decisions on climate policy in our countries is working not efficiently. We insist that this system shall be reformed, systematic work of interagency groups shall be established, and mechanisms for constructive bilateral interaction between these groups shall be ensured, as well as for co-operation of governmental bodies with the public.

We believe that the dialogue between official structures which form and implement climate policy and civil organizations is necessary. Environmental NGOs in our countries are ready to participate in this dialogue.

Participants of the conference, representatives of 37 non-governmental organizations from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine