Tianjin climate talks break down on North-South divide

United Nations talks on climate change in China‘s port city of Tianjin are nearing a close with no clear consensus yet in sight. The meeting is aimed at laying the groundwork for progress at the UN’s annual climate change summit that opens in Cancún, Mexico, on November 29. Chinese and Brazilian officials have blocked discussion of the legal framework for a further set of emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol after the first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

Huang Huikang, China’s special representative for climate change negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “Our intervention is not to block discussions of the Kyoto Protocol group, we just want to keep the group’s discussion the right way. The key issue is the lack of substantive progress on the developed countries’ side.”

As Huang said in August, he believes that, “The core of the ongoing UN climate talks is that developed countries should take on their historical, legal and moral responsibilities for climate change.”

Some 3,000 participants from more than 170 countries are in Tianjin for a week-long negotiating session. They are working to limit global warming in a year that is so far one of the hottest on record, with fires and drought in Russia, floods in Pakistan and China, and Greenland losing a 100-square mile chunk of ice.

Many of the negotiators consider reaching a global climate change accord essential before the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period expires in 2012. The protocol commits 36 developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 5.2% below 1990 levels by then. But the world’s two largest emitters, China and the US, are not parties to the protocol, which took effect in 2005 as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

One major sticking point at Tianjin is whether or not to continue the Kyoto Protocol. China and Brazil are in favor of continuing the Protocol, yet are blocking continuing discussion of legal matters related to the accord.

At last year’s Copenhagen climate summit, the international community failed to reach an agreement that included legally binding emissions reductions beyond 2012. The Copenhagen Accord, a loose, voluntary agreement outside the Kyoto Protocol structure, was the outcome.

Another of the major sticking points at Tianjin is whether or not there should even be binding targets to reduce emissions. Beijing refuses to commit to targets because it says it is still a developing nation, and the US still does not have greenhouse gas reduction legislation. (ENS, Oct. 8)

See our last post on the climate crisis.

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