DCSIMG

Few countries satisfied as UN reaches deal to extend Kyoto Protocol

  • by KARL RITTER AND MICHAEL CASEY
 

A UNITED Nations climate conference agreed yesterday to extend the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that limits the greenhouse gas output of some rich countries but which will only cover about 15 per cent of global emissions.

The extension was adopted by nearly 200 countries after hard-fought sessions and despite objections from Russia.

The package of decisions also included vague promises of financing to help poor countries cope with climate change.

Though expectations were low for the two-week conference in Doha, many developing countries rejected the deal as insufficient to put the world on track to fight rising temperatures that are raising sea levels. Some Pacific island nations see this as a threat to their existence.

“This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting,” said Nauru foreign minister, Kieren Keke, who leads an alliance of small island states. “It certainly isn’t where we need to be to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts.”

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which controls the greenhouse gas emissions of rich countries, expires this year. It was extended until 2020 to fill the gap until a wider global treaty is expected to take effect.

However, the second phase only covers about 15 per cent of global emissions after Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia opted out. The US ­never joined Kyoto, partly ­because it didn’t include China and other fast-growing developing countries.

Poor countries came into the talks in Doha demanding a timetable on how rich countries would scale up climate change aid for them to $100 billion annually by 2020 – a general pledge that was made three years ago.

But rich nations, including the US, members of the European Union and Japan, are still grappling with the effects of the financial crisis and were not interested in detailed talks on aid in Doha.

The agreement on financing made no reference to any mid-term financing targets, just a general pledge to “identify pathways for mobilising the scaling up of climate finance”.

Concluding the marathon talks, conference president Abdullah bin Hamad said: “I thank you all for good will and hard work in moving the process forward.” But Moscow’s delegate, Oleg Shamanov, said that Russia, along with Belarus and Ukraine, opposed the decision to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. Russia wanted less stringent limits on unused carbon emissions permits, known as hot air.

A package of decisions, known as the Doha Climate Gateway, would also postpone until 2013 a dispute over demands from developing nations for more cash to help them cope with global warming.

All sides say the Doha decisions fell far short of recommendations by scientists for tougher action to try to avert more heatwaves, sandstorms, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

The draft deal would extend the Kyoto Protocol for years. It had obliged about 35 industrialised nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels during the period from 2008 to 2012.

 

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