Four crucial countries block progress at international climate change talks

Russia, Australia, Canada and Japan, all crucial to the successful implementation of the Kyoto climate change agreement, are objecting to the wording of the Protocol, blocking any significant progress.

When edie was published, the four nations, which are all essential for the Kyoto Protocol to come into force since the US pulled out before the last Conference of the Parties (COP6) talks (see related story), had objected to the wording of the document, which describes penalties for non-compliance as legally binding. Officials and government ministers from almost 180 nations will remain at the COP7 talks, which aim to take the key principles reached in Bonn in July and translate them into a detailed ‘rulebook’ to make the Protocol operational, until 9 November, after commencing negotiations on 29 October.

Without naming the four countries, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Michael Zammit Cutajar, chairing the talks, said certain nations had already won concessions enabling them to write off emissions and not dent long-term pollution. According to the Climate Action Network, a coalition of more than 200 environmental NGOs represented at the talks, the four countries are breaking the agreement made in Bonn, by seeking to amend the rules of compliance which were finalised in June. Under the suggested text these four nations are pushing, the NGOs say, COP7 would not have to adopt anything, but simply make recommendations to the next level of the process.

The four countries’ objection lies in Bonn’s agreement that any liable country failing to comply would also lose its right to take part in emissions trading and other ‘flexible mechanisms’, and for every ton of emissions a country misses its target by, it would have to make up for the shortfall after 2012 at a rate of 1.3 tonnes. “Basically this means that Russia, Australia, Canada and Japan are trying to get out of being penalised if they fail to stick to the rules of the Protocol,” commented Bill Hare, of Greenpeace and the Climate Action Network. “They want to bend the rules so that they could ratify the Protocol, but then come back later and say that they never agreed to penalties if they didn’t meet their commitments. For Australia, which has indicated it would not ratify the Protocol until the USA has joined, this is particularly galling behaviour.”

Russia’s representative at the talks, Yevgeny Utkin, reportedly believes that Russia will not receive benefits from the implementations of the Kyoto Protocol. “Quota trading is practically closed to us because there are no such consumers on the international arena,” he told the Russian news agency, Itar-Tass.

Russia wants to reopen the issue over its concern about the allowances for credits on carbon sinks, but some are surprised about its objection given that emissions are now 30% below 1990 levels, meaning it will have an excess allowance of emissions to sell under the Protocol.

Cutajar said that there “is a strong political signal from the EU of intent to ratify once Marrakech is done”. For Kyoto to enter into force, it must be ratified by 55 countries responsible for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. To date, 40 nations have ratified, but not the key industrial nations responsible for global warming.

According to a letter written by the US State Department sent to Senator John Kerry, American officials in Marrakech will engage in “issues that have the potential to set negative precedents or be contrary to US interests”, but will neither offer alternative proposals for an agreement, nor block negotiations among other


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