A key debate discussing whether the Kyoto Protocol should continue, whether it should be supplemented by an additional agreement and which, if any, amendments should be made to it should it continue has dissolved in to deadlock.
The debate is centring on proposals submitted by the small Pacific island state of Tuvalu for a “Copenhagen Protocol”, to complement the Kyoto Protocol. It aims to limit temperature increases by forcing other advanced developing countries to also make emission reductions cuts – not just richer, developed countries. It has been supported by small island states and some of the least economically developed countries.
It would need three quarters of the world’s government to support it to go through. But unsurprisingly it has been opposed by China, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil and South Africa who argue that the debate is undermining the chances of success in Copenhagen. They argue that the Kyoto Protocol is the only legal instrument that is needed and want developed countries to commit to ambitious future cuts.
The rift has led to hold ups. In an unusual move, the meeting was suspended by 10 minutes so a resolution could be negotiated between the main proponents: a David and Goliath battle between China on the one hand, and the tiny island state of Tuvalu on the other. But still no consensus was reached. The meeting has been suspended for the second day running so informal consultations can take place.
The rift is significant – it has effectively carved up developing countries, previously a stable bloc of 130 countries, into two key groups: the least developed and most vulnerable island states, and advanced developing countries. It is signalling, no less, a welcome challenge to the existing interpretation of the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." As the principle is currently applied the economically more advanced developing countries such as China and Brazil are not forced to internationalise pledges to reduce their emissions - despite now emitting vast amounts of greenhouse gases. If the climate scientists are right, this is clearly not an acceptable position for these countries to take.