Climate Talks Off to Slow Start in Bonn

8 June 2011

The ongoing international negotiation process on climate change has been bogged down by procedural quarrels from its onset on Monday 6 June. The two-week talks in Bonn, Germany, are part of the process leading up to the next Conference of the Parties (COP) in Durban, South Africa this upcoming December.

Already, many countries are acknowledging that their expectations for Durban are low. Key countries lack the political will to move forward, due largely to concerns regarding to the competitiveness of their carbon-intensive industries and their focus on growth and jobs more generally.

The future of the Kyoto Protocol in particular looks glum, with its first commitment period running out in 2012, and several parties already having announced that they do not intend to participate in the foreseen extension, or "second commitment period," of the agreement. Meanwhile, movement in negotiations for a new agreement that could supplant Kyoto, known as the working group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA), are taking place at a sluggish pace, thanks to many fundamental disagreements among negotiating blocs and countries.

In stark contrast to the slow pace of multilateral negotiations, new information released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that global carbon dioxide emissions have risen sharply following a slump caused by the 2008 recession. In fact, 2010 emissions are the highest recorded to date.

Trade, response measures hampering discussions

Trade-related issues were among those creating discord among participating countries at the opening of the current round of talks. Countries disagree on whether or not to address emissions from agriculture and maritime and aviation transportation as discrete topics in the negotiations.

Problems also emerged with regard to ‘response measures,' which deal with social and economic impacts that countries could experience as a result of the policies and measures that other countries take to mitigate climate change. These include trade measures, such as international transport taxes or carbon labelling schemes.

Discussions on response measures have advanced in various negotiating tracks over past years, and this session's agenda included a special "forum" that would consider a work programme and modalities for more in-depth treatment of the potential impacts. However, some countries, including the US, are blocking the discussion in any track to avoid any potential decisions at Durban.

Once the procedural disagreements are worked out, substantive discussions should get under way on a broad range of topics. One of the key questions still hanging in the air for this meeting, and eventually for Durban, is what will become of the Kyoto Protocol.

The next issue of Bridges Weekly will provide an update on both the negotiations and the response measures forum, with a focus on trade relevant issues.

ICTSD reporting.

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