Urgency to seal deal as COP17 ends … (John Yeld, Daily News, 7/12/2011)

With less than 72 hours left in which to strike a new climate change deal at the COP17 summit, negotiations are on a knife-edge.

An impeccable source, close to the process who asked to remain anonymous, said last night: “The outcome still hangs in the balance – it’s very hard to call.”

But there is reportedly also an urgency and willingness among the negotiators from the 194 member nations and the EU to seal an agreement before the summit ends on Friday.

At the heart of a possible new deal is the highly contentious issue of a second commitment period for developed nations to further reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto protocol.

The first commitment period for these 27 “Annex 1” developed countries ends next year.

The basis for much of the negotiations at the summit is the EU’s “road map” proposal which will see it and a small number of developed countries like Norway sign up for a second Kyoto commitment period, in return for guarantees that negotiations for a new global, legally binding treaty deal that will pull all countries in will be concluded by 2015 and come into effect in 2020.

This deal will have to include the US, which is not part of Kyoto, and the big emitters like China, India, Brazil and SA that are listed as developing countries under the protocol and hence not subject to any compliance measures.

But the EU has also attached other demands to its road map and some negotiators are concerned that the bloc may be trying to whittle down the legal rigour and integrity required by the protocol. They say this will also weaken the legal character of any possible global climate deal.

Although many still see the US as the “spoiler” at the summit, – particularly the non-governmental groups – there is some understanding in the negotiating rooms of its domestic policies, which make it politically impossible to sign any deal that might appear to be giving dollars to business rivals like China to boost their competitiveness.

China is, in turn, concerned at the US’s history of having signed up to the Kyoto protocol but then not ratifying it.

Negotiators are looking for ways to remove the “firewall” between how developed and developing countries are categorised in terms of the Kyoto protocol, so that there will be balance and symmetry in the way all big greenhouse gas emitters are treated in future.

Small island states desperately want tough new emissions targets, but the recent financial meltdown in key parts of the developed world means they are unable and/or unwilling to put brakes on their economies through further compulsory carbon reductions.

“So we’re in a bit of a dilemma, but all the pieces are on the table,” the source said last night.

 “We’re on an edge and it’s very hard to call one way or another, but I’m extremely encouraged by the progress.”

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