U.N. Climate Fight Seen More Flexible after 2012
NAIROBI A U.N.-led fight against global warming is likely to be more flexible after 2012 in hopes of enlisting outsiders such as the United States and China, delegates at U.N. climate talks say.
Ideas floated at the Nov. 6-17 talks include technology and aid for poor nations in return for braking a rise in greenhouse gases, sectoral goals for industries such as steel or aluminium, or credits to slow deforestation in the Amazon or Congo basins.
"We have to make it attractive for countries to take part," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said of ideas for widening the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 which sets strict caps on emissions.
"I see people looking at a larger menu of options and I find that very constructive," he told Reuters.
Kyoto binds 35 developing nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Most Kyoto nations favour deeper cuts for themselves after 2012 but want more nations involved.
De Boer said some ideas to widen Kyoto might help mute objections from President George W. Bush, who pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001 saying that it wrongly set no targets for developing nations and would be too costly.
But U.S. climate negotiator Harlan Watson said the United States had no plans to re-join Kyoto, now or beyond 2012. The United States is the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly from power plants, factories and cars, ahead of China.
Kyoto is meant as a first step to avert what many scientists say will be wrenching disruptions to the climate such as heatwaves, floods, desertification and rising sea levels.
"There is a strong likelihood that the main features (of caps) under the protocol will be carried forward, hopefully improved," said Michael Zammit Cutajar who heads a key committee looking beyond 2012.
But he foresaw a more flexible approach, perhaps even a menu of options. Nairobi will not reach any firm conclusions.
Among ideas are investments in clean energy technologies such as wind or solar power in developing nations, especially in Africa, to help them avoid fossil-fuel intensive industries. Investors in rich states could claim credits back home.
Some poorer states could get goals to brake the rise in their emissions -- China's current five-year plan, for instance, already includes a goal to cut the amount of carbon dioxide per unit of economic output by 20 percent.
Some developing nations want aid to reward them if they slow the rate of deforestation from Papua New Guinea to Bolivia -- perhaps even tradeable credits such as in a European market for industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.
"We are doing our best to preserve the forests ... and that is helping the climate," said Gisela Ulloa, the coordinator of Bolivia's National Clean Development Office. Trees soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow.
Zammit Cutajar, from Malta, said some nations may seek sectoral industrial benchmarks for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted, for instance per tonne of steel, aluminium or cement.
"That gives rise to concerns in developing countries who say 'this is like putting a cap on us'," he said. "But there could be differentiation to give them more leeway."
Watson of the United States said goals for energy-intensive industries were too complex. "These industries are nationally based and extraordinarily competitive. How do you then propose a target? There are a lot of difficulties," he said.
And the European Union says Kyoto is too rigid -- countries such as South Korea, with no caps, have higher per capita incomes than some EU nations in eastern Europe.
"We have a very strict division of the world into two categories" of Kyoto and non-Kyoto states, said Outi Berghall, the lead negotiator for Finland which holds the EU's rotating presidency. "We have to ... be more flexible."
One proposal suggests developing countries can only get financial help to cut their emissions to a certain limit, and then accept binding caps. Another suggests thresholds for taking binding limits, based on per capita wealth.
"Developing a 'one size fits all' mechanism is not going to work," said Steve Sawyer, a climate expert at Greenpeace.
The European Union says that member states' emissions should be cut by 15-30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It hopes, for instance, that a market for trading emissions will widen from more than 10,000 EU industrial sites.