United Nations begin ‘informal’ negotiations

Bangkok talks

The United Nations has launched ‘informal’ negotiations on a climate change protocol in Bangkok, Thailand, today (30 August), prior to the annual UN Climate Conference, which will held in Doha, Qatar, in November.

The negotiations, which will not be translated or broadcast via webcasts due to ‘financial constraints’, will run until Wednesday (5 September) and are expected to see representatives from over 190 countries begin the process of negotiating the terms of the 2020 Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (Durban Platform).

Durban Platform

United Nations governments are expected to sign the Durban Platform, an international legal agreement on climate change aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius (based on the Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC)), by 2015.

In a letter to the government officials attending the negotiations, Co-Chairs Jayant Moreshver Mauskar and Harald Dovland of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform For Enhanced Action (ADP), said that they ‘invite Parties to share and explore their vision and aspirations for the ADP, the results of its work and how these results are to be achieved’.

The Co-Chairs went on to add that it would be ‘particularly useful’ if officials could ‘outline how they envisage the broad contours and features of the protocol, another legal instrument, or agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties’.

Contention in the ranks

However, since being first introduced in December 2011 at the Durban Conference, the Durban Platform has proved contentious, as China, the largest CO2 emitter in the world, said it would not agree to the 2015 deadline, with the United States saying it would not commit to the agreement until China does, and suggesting that it was not committed to guaranteeing the agreed goal of limiting temperature rise to 2C.

The platform’s 2C degree limit was also called into question recently, as Professor Sir Bob Watson, Defra’s outgoing chief scientist, told the BBC last week that although the UK should make efforts to cut its CO2 emissions, "the idea of a 2C target is largely out of the window".

Discussions over how governments now respond to the US’s ‘rejection of otherwise universally agreed norms and rules’ (as described in the Co-Chairs’ letter) and Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol (which Environment Minister Peter Kent said did “not represent the path forward for Canada”) will also be discussed in Bangkok, alongside carbon-cutting targets for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (the first period of which ends in 2012).

Raising efforts

“Governments have promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help the poor and vulnerable adapt to climate change. They know they must implement these promises fully, raise their efforts before 2020 and redouble those efforts again after 2020”, said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“Soon, in Doha, they must show implementation and set the pace towards adopting a new, universal climate agreement by 2015. The next three years are set to drive the next two decades of the international response to climate change”, she said.

Meetings on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and the use of carbon markets, as well as how best to raise and distribute ‘climate finance’ from 2013 onwards will also take place this week, in the hopes of helping developing countries meet their emission reduction objectives.

Outlining the format of the negotiations, the Co-Chairs said that discussions will be ‘organized in a manner that facilitates interactive dialogue, through use of a roundtable format’ in order to ‘facilitate a substantive and meaningful discussion among Parties’.

Further details on the Bangkok negotiations can be found on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.