1 Dec 2012

Groser wants developing countries to join Kyoto

11:31 pm on 1 December 2012

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says it is vital to pitch to developing nations the importance of taking action on climate change.

Mr Groser is travelling to the United Nations' 18th climate change talks starting on Monday in Qatar.

The Green Party's climate change spokesperson, Kennedy Graham, is also going to the conference as part of a global parliamentary delegation.

He says there has to be a breakthrough soon to avert catastrophic climate change as there is only a five-year window-of-opportunity to turn the situation around.

Earlier this week, Mr Groser announced New Zealand would not sign up to phase two of the Kyoto Protocol. It originally only agreed to the first committment period, which finishes at the end of this year.

Mr Groser says a focus of the conference will be to launch negotiations on a new agreement which he says will need to be more flexible and have more participation.

His aim will be to get developing countries to buy in to the new agreement.

Mr Groser says he wants to convince developing countries to commit to low carbon development strategies.

But the BBC reports that claims some rich countries have a right to keep using "hot air" carbon permits could hamper progress at UN climate talks.

Potential roadblocks

With the Kyoto Protocol's first committment period running out at the end of 2012, several countries want to carry over unused carbon allowances.

Campaigners say this "hot air" could render new carbon cuts meaningless.

And there are fears that old fault lines between rich and poor will prevent any significant developments.

More than 17,000 participants are expected in the Qatari capital Doha for the conference.

This meeting comes just a month before the expiration of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's most significant global agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

Last year in South Africa, negotiators agreed what is called the Durban Platform.

The nub of this was a trade off - the richer countries would extend their carbon cutting beyond 2013 via an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

In return, the developing nations would negotiate a new deal by 2015 that would commit all countries, including emerging super-powers like India and China, to reduce emissions from 2020.

Key to that small forward step was a "coalition of the willing" - an unlikely alliance of the European Union, small island states and the least developed countries.

Trouble ahead

But in Doha, some of the fine details of an agreement have to be worked out. And these are proving very troublesome for that group in particular.

One of the concerns is over "hot air" - several EU countries were given huge allowances of carbon permits that they want to carry over into a new commitment period. But the scale of the surplus, some 13 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, could render future promises to cut carbon effectively meaningless.

"Many (delegates) are unhappy about the carry-over," said Dr Quamrul Chowdhury, a negotiator from Bangladesh who speaks for the developing countries group. "It could be a difficult issue."

Another critical element is money. During the COP15 talks in Copenhagen in 2009, richer countries agreed to provide $US30 billion in fast-start finance for the period up to 2012.

They also established a Green Climate Fund to control up $US100 billion per year expected to be raised by 2020 to help poorer countries mitigate the effects of climate change.

But with no money in the climate fund after the end of this year, Oxfam believes it is the most critical issue at this meeting.