Summit ends with questions over political intent to take protocol forward into second phase of commitment

The yardstick of success of the United Nations climate change conference will be the anchoring of the pledges made at Copenhagen in 2009 on critical issues, and if there is a political intent to take the Kyoto Protocol forward into a second phase of commitment.

Japan's refusal to commit to a second phase of the Protocol has hung like a dark shadow over the conference all along.

However, it is not the case that talks did not make progress, and the Mexican government has pushed hard for results. All day on Thursday, there were group consultations and discussions at the ministerial level.

The conference, which ended on Friday, has seen a lot of technicalities being discussed to take the pledges made at Copenhagen forward, and the Mexican government took a more decentralised process by forming smaller groups to discuss thorny issues and then tabling them in a plenary.

Persisting issues

While Bolivia had issues with this process, things have moved forward in key areas. However, some sticky issues that persisted were transparency or the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) and Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV) , finance, technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) plus, and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

There were “strong and divergent positions” on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. Discussion on the critical areas of ICA, anchoring the pledges made at Copenhagen and legal forms were led by the developed countries, with the U.S. making an issue of the technology transfer mechanism being operationalised.

The thorny issue of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) has been taken forward for discussion so that it does not affect a conclusion here on this issue. On REDD plus, matters of national and sub-national accounting were contentious, but the main issue was that the U.S. wanted some closure on ICA for the other key decisions to be finalised.

It is critical to anchor the Copenhagen pledges within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol by developed countries and in long-term cooperative action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for developing countries. It is important for India that the Kyoto Protocol parties anchor their commitment within that framework, so that the protocol continues.

Green fund issue

The commitment to the setting up of a green fund last year was also an issue of contention, with the U.S. again merely wanting a decision to establish the fund and carrying forward the modalities of funding. Developing countries, however, want a decision at Cancun on this crucial aspect.

NGOs pointed out that the phrase ‘new and additional' (for funding) has been removed from the text under discussion, and in return, timelines have been set for countries to give the money. The $30 billion fast-start finance announced at Copenhagen has been controversial with countries not really coming forward with funding, and with much of it not being new or additional.

While there is a consensus on REDD plus, there are problems with the financial mechanism and accounting processes.

According to the latest analysis by the Climate Action Tracker, an independent online climate policy assessment system, the current negotiating texts for forests and for the use of allowances after 2012 will significantly weaken the ambition level of developed countries emission reduction targets.

The analysis warns that loopholes in the draft text would widen the emissions gap between countries' targets and what is needed to limit warming to below two degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius.

While no one expected a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol to be finalised at Cancun, at least a strong indication or political will to continue the protocol is crucial. It is important that the Copenhagen pledges be formalised under the UNFCCC.