Hopes of new climate pact dashed in Copenhagen

Public Domain

As the Copenhagen climate talks draw to a close, hopes have dimmed of reaching any significant agreement that could form the basis of an eventually legally binding climate deal to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. Although many are disappointed, Czech climate expert Jan Pretel says such an outcome was only to be expected.

“Personally, I am not very surprised because anybody who has been following developments –say the Bali conference or even the negotiations preceding it in 2006 – is aware that no significant progress in negotiations has been made. Just consider that between 2006 and 2009 there were about 20 weeks of intensive negotiations with practically no result.”

What seems to be the major problem?

“I would say that the major problem is the differing views of the developed and developing countries. The developing countries are looking for a possible continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, because as you know, the Kyoto Protocol is legally binding only for the industrialized countries, with the exception of the US which did not ratify it. The industrial countries are now trying to develop some new version of the protocol which would set targets for themselves and also targets for the developing countries because the situation now is such that the total emissions coming from the US and China –which are not bound by the Kyoto Protocol – make up more than 50 percent of the overall world emissions.”

So right now it is vitally important to try and draw them into the process somehow?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to China's PM Wen Jiabao during the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, photo: CTK
“Yes, they should be part of some legally binding reduction targets. But three key questions also need to be solved – one is how carbon emissions will be reduced, how the targets will be shared between the countries and the third question – which I believe is the most important of all – is how the money intended for climate change adaptation in the developing countries will be used. The developing countries are looking for money to help fight the impacts of climate change, while the developed countries are debating the amount they can give and particularly the United States is concerned about the transparency of this process. Because nobody wants to spend money without knowing how it will be used, right? ”

Do you think the fact that the conference has failed to reach an agreement as so many people hoped will be a major set-back for the environment – are we losing precious time?

“Certainly we are losing time, that’s for sure. It seems to me that the only possible outcome of this conference is a political agreement that negotiations will continue for the setting up of some short-term reduction targets – and by short-term I mean a time horizon of 2020. There seems to be no difficulty reaching agreement that in the time horizon of 2050 the world should reduce emissions by 40, 50 or 60 percent of the current emissions. But what is really important at this point is to agree on some legally binding instruments of reduction. In my view it is not necessary to reduce emissions by 20-30 percent by the year 2020 but we must agree on some legally binding instruments that will enable us to minimize the impacts of climate change around the world. The possibilities are of course emission reductions but also in the setting of reasonable and economically viable adaptation options in order to help the planet deal with the mostly negative impacts of climate change.”