JAKARTA, Indonesia (24 November, 2011)__ The leader of Indonesia’s delegation at climate change talks in Durban warned that the entire U.N.-led multilateral negotiation process could be in danger if a legally-binding mitigation framework that still differentiates emission cut responsibilities of developed and developing nations is not reached in the next few years.
“A second commitment of Kyoto Protocol is a must because if it’s disturbed, it could also break the whole system of UNFCCC,” Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s lead negotiator in the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Durban in South Africa, told journalists in Jakarta recently. The global community reached a consensus about the obligations of developed and developing nations four years ago in Bali and that became the basis for subsequent negotiations, he said. “The tasks of the next COPs were to elaborate on how much (new emission cut targets) and when” by COP15 in Copenhagen.
The climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, dubbed “Hopenhagen”, ended in disappointment as negotiators failed to agree on new emission cut targets under an treaty that will replace the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The following round of negotiations in Cancun succeeded in reaching a consensus to include Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, or REDD+, to encourage developing countries to protect their forests as part of the next global mitigation framework.
Some experts, including Antonio La Viña, facilitator of REDD+ negotiations in the U.N. climate summits, said that there are multiple options to moving ahead with the forest scheme, even without an umbrella climate agreement. These may include the already ongoing bilateral funding, such as from Norway and Australia as well as future carbon markets through sub-national initiatives. California may allow companies to buy forest credits from outside the U.S. to meet its obligations starting 2015, said Andrea Tuttle from the Pacific Forest Trust.
REDD+ has even attracted the interests from the private sector. Investment banks including Macquarie and BNP Paribas have started to develop funds to invest in forest carbon credits, said Dharsono Hartono, President of PT Rimba Makmur Utama, which has a REDD+ project in Central Kalimantan. “They realize that REDD is the lowest hanging fruit” to slow climate change, he said.
Still, a financial crisis that’s threatening to spread across Europe after hitting the United States with a deep recession has bumped climate change efforts down the priority list in favor for reviving economic growth. Expectations on what can actually be achieved in the next round of climate negotiations are low. “If Durban keeps momentum going, that in itself will be a success,” said Franz Drees-Gross, Sustainable Development Sector Manager of the World Bank.
A decision on the new treaty won’t be reached in Durban or in the U.N. climate summit next year, said Witoelar. Still, he is “optimistic” that a deal will be reached “a bit beyond that”. In the meantime, one option will be to extend the Kyoto Protocol, built on the principle of “common-but-differentiated responsibilities”.
The world’s richest nations including the United States, Japan and Russia have said that they would not sign a new global climate consensus unless legally-binding carbon limits are also imposed on major emerging economies like China and India, whose greenhouse gases output jump as their GDPs expand.
Many developing countries, although rejecting legally-binding targets for them, have set voluntary emission targets. Earlier this year, China approved a plan to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) until 2015. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced an ambitious goal to cut emissions by 26 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020 and by 41 percent with outside assistance.
CIFOR will have a team of experienced writers covering the climate change negotiations and events of COP17 to be held in Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9. Follow stories related to forests, REDD+, food security and climate change on CIFOR’s Forests Blog and @CIFOR_forests on twitter. Get involved in Forest Day 5, the biggest global platform on forestry and climate change, by tracking the hashtag #FD5 on twitter.