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Climate negotiations in Bangkok continue on disappointing course

This week, another set of UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) talks began in Bangkok. These talks are meant to lay the groundwork for the last sessions in Barcelona (November) and Copenhagen (December). 

The meeting in Copenhagen is a pivotal moment for global climate action. The negotiations are meant to produce a new, post Kyoto Protocol climate agreement.

“Time is not just pressing. It has almost run out,” U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said of leaders’ dwindling time before they meet in Copenhagen to finalize a pact (as reported by the Associated Press) “As many leaders have said, there is no Plan B,” he said. “If we don’t realize Plan A, the future will hold us to account for it.”

UN experts warned on Tuesday that Asia-Pacific nations and other developing countries need support to combat climate change as they face an intensification of extreme weather such as the Philippine floods.

Despite the clear need, news on progress towards an agreement coming out of the talks is, at best, not inspiring.

Negotiations have been deadlocked for months.

Yvo de Boer told the Associated Press there was growing frustration among developing countries (see Boston Herald article here). “Developing countries are making very significant efforts to show what they are doing to address climate change and indicate what more they are willing to do,” de Boer said. “We’ve had this dragging debate for two years on what further commitments industrial countries can take under the Kyoto Protocol. That debate needs to be brought to a conclusion.”

Key divisions concern commitments from Global North countries (or Annex 1 countries) to sufficient domestic emission reduction targets and climate financing for to help Global South countries with climate mitigation and adaption.

As reported by the Associated Press:

 “Only hours after negotiations began, rich and poor nations were already flinging their usual rebukes at one another for failing to do their part to reach a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.Talks have been deadlocked for months over the industrial countries’ refusal to commit to committing to sufficiently deep cuts or provide billions of dollars to poor nations to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.”

“Emission reductions of at least 40 percent or 45 percent below the 1990 baseline by developed countries are required and must be announced without further delay,” the Indian delegation said in a statement.

Sudan’s Lumumba Di-Aping, speaking for the Group of 77 developing nations and China, said it was just as important that developed countries financially help poor nations adapt to the impacts of climate change and develop greener economies. “Finance and technology are central to achieving a just and equitable deal,” Di-Aping said.”

The stakes can not be any higher.

Dinal Fuetesfina, a Philippine activist from the Global Campaign for Climate Action Asia, linked the current floods being experienced in Philippines to the consequences of inaction. “”We are asking the negotiators to look outside these walls. They should realize that it is the people’s lives at stake,” said Fuentesfina.

While Global North countries (or Annex 1) countries admit a historical responsibility for climate change – developed countries are in an environmental debt to the world because they are responsible for 70% of historical carbon emissions into the atmosphere since 1750 – this is not yet translating into commitments to significant domestic emission reductions and contributions to international climate mitigation and adaption funding.

Canada continues with a poor track record at the international negotiations, refusing to commit to needed emission reductions. Canada’s emission reduction targets amount to a 3 per cent reduction below 1990 emission levels by 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that reductions of at least 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels are needed on the part of Global North countries. Recent science indicates even deeper reductions are needed. Global North countries, with this historical responsibility for emissions should be committing to even deeper domestic reductions of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels.

  As reported in the Globe and Mail, the Harper government has consistently stated that our country will not sign a climate change agreement unless developing countries like China and India commit to binding targets. Environment Minister Jim Prentice said China’s position announced at the Bangkok meetings, still isn’t good enough.

“The Chinese President made a historic speech … but did not offer binding targets in terms of reductions, but rather targets that are related to specific things that would be done in China relative to energy efficiency, renewable energies and so on,” Mr. Prentice said.

The world needs decisive, tough action on climate change coming out of Copenhagen this December. Canada needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We need a global deal that leads to real emission reductions. It must be fair and equitable, and including stronger commitments and actions by the Global North.

Take action:

Join the October 24 International Day of Climate Action. Find out more at and how the Council of Canadians is participating, here

Watch the KYOTOplus video here

Sign the KYOTOplus petition and encourage others to sign here

Send an email to Environment Committee members to support the swift passage of the Climate Change Accountability act here