The UN conference in Cancun discusses possibilities of extension of the Kyoto Protocol

The future of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and transfer of its mechanisms for subsequent periods is discussed in Cancun. Russia has repeatedly stated that it considers appropriate to transfer unused quotas for CO2 emissions to the future periods of international agreements. Environmental NGOs are calling to abandon the sale of quotas and to take action to actually reduce emissions.

The future of the Kyoto Protocol is one of the key issues at the UN Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which takes place in the Mexican city of Cancun from 29 November to 10 December. The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Official delegations are discussing the possibility of extending the commitments to the second period of the Kyoto Protocol (after 2012).

Decision on this issue is particularly important, as fewer hopes are present for adoption of a new, comprehensive agreement, legally binding for all countries. Experts note the trend to move away from binding targets of emissions reductions by Annex 1 states, to the voluntary goals.

At the same time, the extension of the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms - for example, such as the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation Projects - would be a positive decision, as it promotes practical implementation of low-carbon solutions.

Russia and Ukraine have expressed interest to maintain the current status of the CP transfer of quotas for the second period of the KP and subsequent periods. The AWG-KP group discussed a possible decision, in which the quota transferred from the first to the second period, could be also transfered to subsequent periods under the Kyoto Protocol.

The total volume of transfer units is estimated as about 11 Gt of CO2. In this volume a significant proportion of units is owned by Russia (ca. 8 Gt of CO2) and Ukraine. Trading quotas is fairly called "hot air" trade, because it does not lead to actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives of the official Russian delegation at the previous COP-15 conference in Copenhagen and later claimed that Russia has no plans to sell units of emissions, but plans to use them as a reserve for economic development, which inevitably (according to Russian officials) must be accompanied by an increase in greenhouse gases releases. Ukraine is already selling its carbon credits, but these activities are subjected to severe criticism of environmental NGOs for lack of transparency in the use of funds from the sale.

Environmental NGOs call to impose restrictions on quota trading for the period after 2012 to avoid possible substitution of the real mechanisms of low-carbon solutions in the economies by virtual accounting of the "saved" and transferred units of emissions.