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Copenhagen last chance to curb global emissions: EU

Special Correspondent

It wants agreement to be a single, legally binding instrument

Waiting another decade to act will be too late to prevent climate change

Despite consensus at Poznañ U.N. meet, progress at negotiations this year was slow.

NEW DELHI: The European Union (EU) on Tuesday said it wanted the Copenhagen agreement to prevent global warming to be a single, legally binding instrument that builds on and takes forward the Kyoto Protocol.

The agreement needs to be ratified by governments in time for it to enter into force on January 1, 2013. The EU will honour all its commitments and obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, independent of the outcome in Copenhagen, a EU statement here said.

The window of opportunity to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels, of two degree Celsius or more above the pre-industrial temperature, which could trigger irreversible and catastrophic changes in the global environment, was closing fast, warns the EU.

Rare opportunity

The average global temperature is already almost 0.8 degree Celsius higher than in pre-industrial times and research indicates that the past and present emissions may have already made a further rise of as much as one degree Celsius inevitable. “This means that Copenhagen is almost certainly the last chance to get global emissions on to a progressively lower-carbon track that can prevent climate change from reaching two degree Celsius or more. It is 12 years since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed on, so Copenhagen is a rare opportunity for global action. With world emissions still rising steadily, waiting another decade or more to act will be too late to prevent dangerous climate change,” the statement said.

Despite consensus at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznañ in Poland in December last that international negotiations should shift to higher gear, progress at the three negotiating sessions this year was slow.

Complicating division

The EU said the ongoing negotiations were being conducted on two parallel ‘tracks.’

On one track, the 192 parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which include the United States, are discussing long-term cooperative action to combat climate change. On the other track, the 184 parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which do not include the U.S., are discussing post-2012 emission reduction commitments for industrialised countries.

This division “is a complicating factor and it would be desirable for the tracks to be merged sooner rather than later to prepare the way for a single agreement in Copenhagen.”

Indeed, there are already clear signs of the Convention track emerging as the main focus, while negotiations under the Kyoto track are practically stalemated.

The EU, however, sought to ensure that all of the substance of the Kyoto track discussions — on further emission reductions by industrialised countries and on other key issues such as reform of the international carbon market and emission accounting rules for the forestry sector — is kept on the table as the two tracks come together.