CLIMATE CHANGE: G20 Leaders Wrangle Over Kyoto Successor

  • by Marina Litvinsky (washington)
  • Monday, March 30, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

The International Commission on Climate Change and Energy Security was established by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE), an international alliance of legislators calling for 'ambitious leadership' on environmental issues. The commission brings together parliamentarians from all the major economies to discuss the real political compromises and trade-offs that will be necessary to agree on a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

'The commission will enable a political discussion to be held that isn’t mired in technical detail, and allows them to explore the political trade-offs that need to be made if an effective agreement is to be reached in Copenhagen at the end of the year,' said Elliot Morley, president of GLOBE.

'There are certain political realities that need to be put on the table if countries are to ratify a Copenhagen climate deal, otherwise governments run the risk of a repeat of legislators vetoing any agreement as happened in the U.S. Senate on Kyoto where it was defeated 95-to zero votes.'

The two-day meeting on Capitol Hill will focus on the commitments that key developed economies such as the U.S. and EU will need to take in relation to 2020 and 2050 emission reduction targets, as well as the nature of commitments that the major emerging economies will need to make. The commission will report in the autumn on the eve of the Copenhagen meeting to the leaders of the G20.

'Change is coming because change is needed. Science demands it, the people demand it,' said Congressman Ed Markey, chair of the commission and of the U.S. Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. 'We have to find a common language and the right way to address the changes ahead.'

Markey will be responsible for sponsoring the new U.S. climate change bill through the House of Representatives.

The commission includes senior legislators from the major economies - the G8, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea - plus Denmark as host of the Copenhagen talks, each selected due to their seniority and foreign relations or finance experience. They include the former Finance Minister of Brazil, the Vice-Chair of the Environment Protection and Resources Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress, and the lead rapporteur for Climate Change in the European Parliament.

During Monday’s opening meeting, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo De Boer spoke via video link-up from the UNFCCC Bonn Conference.

'No issue is more fundamental in the long term (than the one of climate change),' he said. 'The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities in front of us.'

He added that 'developed countries must be clear on actions they will take (to mitigate climate change),' and that 'finances must flow (from the developed world) to help them.'

Participants of the commission hope to negotiate a global accord on the reduction of greenhouse gases in time for the December summit. The accord would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which established legally binding commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases. The U.S. signed the Protocol but never ratified it.

Under Kyoto, industrialised countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent compared to the year 1990. However, most climate scientists stress that far deeper cuts will be required in the future to stave off what could prove to be catastrophic weather changes and sea level rise.

President Barack Obama's chief climate change negotiator, Todd Stern, echoed the new administrations’ commitment to reduce carbon emissions at the U.N. conference in Bonn on Sunday.

'We all have to do this together,' he added. 'I don't think anybody should be thinking that the U.S. can ride in on a white horse and make it all work.'

Parliamentarians at the commission’s launch Monday highlighted their countries’ ongoing work and dedication to combating climate change.

'We are ready to participate in a friendly and sincere discussion on climate change topics,' said Chinese Congressman Pu Haiqing, citing China’s closure of heavily polluting power plants and heavy use of solar power as evidence of achievements. 'We will continue to push for energy saving technology to improve our environment.'

Congressman Honourable Antonio Palocci of Brazil applauded 'the necessary engagement of the U.S. (in climate change negotiations).' He added that an effort must be made 'to eliminate trade barriers on products that will actually solve the problem.'

In their first closed session today, the commission was to take evidence on international stimulus packages - and how to balance short-term job creation and economic stimulus with energy security and climate objectives.

In the second session, Tuesday, each commissioner will be asked to identify the two national economic and political hurdles to further national action on climate change. They will each analyse the 'key red lines' which will determine whether each respective president and prime minister can support a global deal. Experts will map the current commitments of G20 countries and calculate how much further they will have to move to meet long-term goals.

Representatives of the commission will also hold private meetings with key senators including Senator John Kerry. As chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry will be a key figure in steering any deal signed in Copenhagen through the Senate.

The commission has been invited to submit a statement to G20 leaders ahead of the G20 London summit on Apr. 2. It will next meet in Rome on Jun. 11-12 in advance of the Italian G8 summit, and will give its final report on Oct. 23-24 in Copenhagen.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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