* Governments face 'end or extend' Kyoto Protocol dilemma
* First period runs to end-2012: fate unclear
* Nations split on future of climate pact
* U.N. sees "intermediate solution" beyond 2012
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO, Feb 17 Governments are looking at ways to
keep the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol going beyond 2012 in some form to
defuse a standoff between rich and poor nations that threatens
efforts to tackle global warming.
Negotiators from almost 200 nations will meet in Bangkok
from March 3-8, after side-stepping the Kyoto issue at their
last meeting in Mexico in December.
"There is some creative thinking going on" about Kyoto's
future, said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy
programme of the Washington-based World Resources Institute.
The Kyoto Protocol obliges almost 40 industrialised nations
to cut greenhouse gas emissions and is meant to underpin carbon
trading, but existing curbs expire on Dec. 31, 2012 and
developed and developing nations are at odds over its future.
The U.N.'s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said early
this month the world needed an "intermediate solution" for Kyoto
-- whose text says it will be extended beyond 2012 -- since
demands by rich and poor nations are diametrically opposed.
Japan, Russia and Canada insist they will not extend cuts in
greenhouse gases under Kyoto and want all top emitters, led by
China and the United States, to agree a new treaty beyond 2012.
Emerging nations, led by China and India, say rich nations
must extend Kyoto to show leadership in combating climate change
and averting what the U.N. panel of climate scientists says will
be more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.
Kyoto obliges cuts in greenhouse gas emissions averaging at
least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the period 2008-12.
The United States is the only rich nation outside Kyoto and
emerging nations have no binding goals.
Experts say all intermediate solutions have drawbacks.
One option is to preserve elements of Kyoto, such as a
mechanism that promotes carbon-cutting investments in developing
nations, while allowing each rich nation to set its own cuts in
greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012.
Another is to extend existing emissions cuts under Kyoto,
perhaps until 2015, by when it may be clearer if a legally
binding treaty is possible. But prospects for a binding deal
have faded since a U.N. summit in 2009 fell short.
A radical idea is to revive an "Article 10", rejected by
developing nations in 1997 when Kyoto was agreed, that would let
developing nations list "voluntary commitments" to curb their
rising greenhouse gas emissions as part of the text.
Or the European Union and other backers of Kyoto might push
ahead and persuade Japan and others to commit to new, tougher
emissions goals under an extended protocol. A continued small
Kyoto group is likely to face calls to impose trade barriers on
cheaper energy-intensive imports.
Or Kyoto might be abandoned and replaced by a new deal, as
urged by Japan and others. That looks an unlikely outcome.
For 2011, governments want to focus on details of a deal to
set up a Green Climate Fund, measures to combat deforestation
and ways to adapt to climate change, as agreed in Cancun, Mexico
They also agreed to a goal of limiting the rise in global
temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above
pre-industrial times. The United Nations says pledges so far for
cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are inadequate to reach that
"In Cancun, the U.N. negotiations took their hand off the
self-destruct button. That button is Kyoto and legally binding
emissions targets," said Jonathan Grant, director of carbon
markets and climate policy at PricewaterhouseCoopers [PWC.UL].
"The problem is that some developing countries are insistent
on legally binding targets," he said. "The uncertainty from the
United Nations talks filters to uncertainty at the EU level.
Combined with fraud in the market, it's knocking the confidence
in new investment."
In a cyber attack on some European Union carbon registries
last month, carbon permits worth about 50 million euros ($67.66
million) were stolen.
A big problem with designing Kyoto is that major emitter the
United States is not a participant. Former President George W.
Bush said Kyoto wrongly omitted curbs on greenhouse gas
emissions for developing nations and would cost U.S. jobs.
Hermann Ott, a member of the German Bundestag for the Green
Party and author of a book about Kyoto, said one option was to
let countries work at different speeds. "The United States won't
be part of a treaty for 10 or 15 years," he said.
President Barack Obama failed last year to get the U.S.
Senate to agree to cuts in emissions.
(Additional reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee in New Delhi;
Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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