Cancun Talks Move to All-Nighter Phase in Negotiations – Kyoto Protocol Hangs in the Balance

Climate talks in Cancun enter their final "all-nighter" phaseIntransigence prevails over fate of Kyoto Protocol

As the final days of the climate talks in Cancun come to pass, so do the obligatory all-night negotiating sessions in an attempt to pull out some progress at the COP16 climate conference – or perhaps just keep the Kyoto Protocol alive for further debate.

In a process that demands compromise across a wide gulf of competing interests in the global community, the fate of the Kyoto Protocol seems to produce the opposite – intransigence.

From the outset of the talks, Japan has held firm that it will not “associate itself with the second commitment period” of the Protocol that begins in 2012. Japanese Environmental Minister Ryu Matsumoto has stated that any binding global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should use last year’s Copenhagen Accord (forged in last year’s COP15 end-of-conference all-nighter) and not the Kyoto Protocol:

“The Kyoto Protocol has been playing a significant role as the first step in addressing climate change,” Matsumoto told delegates in Cancun. “Japan will maintain the spirit of Kyoto. The protocol only covers 27 percent of global energy related CO2 emissions. Japan would express our serious concern that fixing such a framework. Japan will not associate itself with setting the second commitment period’’

Others see it differently. Colin Beck, U.N. ambassador from the Solomon Islands, demands that industrialized nations commit to the second round of Kyoto:

“With Kyoto there is no compromise. We’re talking about survival. Unfortunately, we’re leaving the picture of humanity behind and putting the economics up front,” said Beck.
Drowning in a sea – of acronyms

As with last year’s conference, members of the Alliance of Small Island Nations (AOSIS) has been vocal in urging others to understand the consequences of further delay on substantive action on climate change (many small island nation risk literally disappearing beneath the waves of a rising sea). Linking a another disappointing outcome in Cancun to president Obama’s failure to move legislation on climate and energy in the U.S., Tuvalu’s prime minister took a swipe at failed U.S. leadership:

“We cannot afford to be held hostage by the political backwardness of one developed country,” he said. “This is life and death, a survival issue for Tuvalu.”

The president of the small island nation of Nauru complained that the process itself was drowning in a sea of jargonistic rhetoric and acronyms:

“The Pacific has a rich cultural and linguistic tradition. Hundreds of distinct languages are spoken in homes throughout our 14 countries,” said Marcus Stephen, who leads the group of Pacific Small Island Developing States.”

“However, none of our words are quite so exotic as the ones spoken by the climate change negotiator. The people who inhabit these walls communicate in acronyms: QELROS, LULUCF, and NAMAs: letters that carry the power to determine which of our nations may thrive and which may vanish beneath the waves.”

QELROS stand for “Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Objectives”
LULUCF stand for “land use, land use-change and forestry”
NAMSAs stand for “nationally appropriate mitigation actions”

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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