UN climate chief warns on Kyoto Protocol deadline

April 4, 2011 by Karl Malakunas
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, shown here in 2010, told governments to prepare for a gap on the expiry of pledges under the Kyoto Protocol, which has formed the foundation of the world's efforts to cut carbon emissions. Commitments by most developed countries to cut emissions are likely to expire at the end of next year without a new round of legally binding pledges, she warned.

Commitments by most developed countries to cut carbon emissions are likely to expire at the end of next year without a new round of legally binding pledges, the UN's climate chief warned Monday.

Christiana Figueres said governments needed to start preparing for a gap on the expiry of pledges under the , which has formed the foundation of the world's efforts to cut the emissions that are blamed for global warming.

"Governments have to face the fact that a gap in this effort looks increasingly impossible to avoid," Figueres told reporters in Bangkok during the UN's first round of for the year.

"In 2011 they need to figure out how to address this issue and how to take it forward in a collective and inclusive way. Resolving this will create a firmer foundation for an even greater collective ambition to cut emissions."

Signed in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol saw most developed nations agree to legally binding agreements in curbing their .

Those commitments are due to expire at the end of 2012.

But Japan and Russia have firmly opposed extending the protocol because it excludes the world's two biggest polluters -- China and the United States -- and therefore only covers about 30 percent of global emissions.

China did not have to commit to cutting emissions because of its status as a developing country, while the United States refused to ratify the protocol.

Japanese delegates to the Bangkok talks said their country would hold firm in its opposition to signing up for a second phase of emission reduction commitments unless the United States and China did the same.

"We will not change our position. We don't change, we haven't changed, we will not change," the deputy director general for global issues with Japan's foreign affairs ministry, Akira Yamada, said in an interview with AFP.

Some governments and many observers have warned that failing to reach an agreement on fresh carbon emission reduction targets would undermine potential progress in other vital areas of the UN's efforts to tackle global warming.

But Figueres said the Kyoto Protocol would not necessarily collapse without the legally binding commitments, and that countries could continue with other important elements.

"There are many different components of the Kyoto Protocol and they have the possibilities of deciding which of those, and all of those if they wish, would continue to operate," she said.

"For example the market mechanisms, for example the compliance system, the rules-based approach of the Kyoto Protocol.

"All of those are very important parts of the Kyoto Protocol that parties are free to choose which ones of those they want to continue and in what form."

The Japanese delegation in Bangkok also insisted UN efforts to combat climate change need not falter, and the Kyoto Protocol could remain effective, without a new round of legally binding emission cut pledges in time for 2013.

This could be done by implementing agreements on a wide range of long-term climate actions made by all countries at the last annual UN climate summit in the Mexican resort of Cancun in December, Japanese delegate Jun Amira said.

"Our first priority is how to operationalise the Cancun agreement," Amira told AFP.

The Cancun accord saw all 194 parties to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change pledge "urgent action" to keep temperatures from rising no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The six days of talks in Bangkok, which began on Sunday, are aimed at kickstarting UN negotiations for the year ahead of the world body's next annual climate summit in Durban, South Africa, in November.

Explore further: More nations may pledge carbon limits at UN talks

Related Stories

More nations may pledge carbon limits at UN talks

December 6, 2010

(AP) -- More countries are expected this week to pledge specific actions to limit carbon emissions over the next decade, in what would be "very good news" for arduous negotiations on a climate change agreement, says host ...

US inaction on climate troubles global talks

August 1, 2010

(AP) -- The failure of a climate bill in the U.S. Senate is likely to weigh heavily on international negotiations that begin Monday on a new agreement to control global warming.

Compromise spirit at climate talks in last days

December 7, 2010

(AP) -- It may not last, but a spirit of compromise seems to have settled over the annual U.N. climate conference as negotiators enter its final days looking for agreements on secondary tools for coping with global warming.

US says it's committed to cutting greenhouse gases

August 2, 2010

(AP) -- The United States assured international negotiators Monday it remains committed to reducing carbon emissions over the next 10 years, despite the collapse of efforts to legislate a climate bill.

Climate: What's to become of the Kyoto Protocol?

October 7, 2009

Whether to tweak, bolster or bury the Kyoto Protocol -- the only binding global agreement for curbing greenhouse gases -- has become a red-hot issue as UN negotiators in Bangkok try to lay the groundwork for a successor treaty.

Recommended for you

Maximizing the environmental benefits of autonomous vehicles

February 15, 2018

The added weight, electricity demand and aerodynamic drag of the sensors and computers used in autonomous vehicles are significant contributors to their lifetime energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.