* Row of Kyoto Protocol far from over, overshadows talks
* Poorer nations demand harder focus on Kyoto, CO2 cuts
* Deal on new pact in Durban looking less likely
By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia
BANGKOK, April 8 The deep divisions apparently
bridged by last December's climate deal in Cancun opened anew
this week at U.N. talks in Bangkok, undermining the chance of
any agreement on the shape of a broader pact by year's end.
The April 3-8 talks in the Thai capital stalled on
disagreement over an agenda to guide negotiations through the
year ahead of a late November annual meeting in Durban, South
Developing nations in Bangkok pushed for a sharper focus on
the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, rich nations' pledges to cut
emissions and climate finance for the poor -- issues that Cancun
didn't fully address.
The United States and others wanted to focus only on the
less contentious Cancun agreements.
"Echoes of previous battles have come back to haunt us but a
lot of countries do want to see progress and there are some
positive signals," said Tim Gore, climate change policy adviser
Cancun reached a series of agreements including a fund to
channel $100 billion a year to poor nations by 2020, a scheme to
transfer clean energy technology and to hold a rise in global
average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius.
These steps and others were widely seen as saving the
fraught U.N. climate process from collapse. But in Bangkok
differences emerged on how to move ahead and tackle harder
issues, particularly the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's
main climate change treaty.
"There's a bit of buyers' regret going on here by developing
nations. Except this time there's no refund," a rich nation
delegate told Reuters, referring to the view that some poorer
nations felt they had conceded too much in Cancun.
CLIMATE POLICY IS ENERGY POLICY
Kyoto binds about 40 industrialised nations to emissions
targets during its 2008-12 first phase. Poorer nations only have
to take voluntary steps and are keen to keep this formulation in
future, saying hard targets could harm economic growth.
The pact was originally meant to be extended into a second
period from 2013 with deeper emissions cuts from rich nations.
But no successor to Kyoto or another broader pact that binds all
major economies is in sight.
Agreement in the debate is critical to reach the goal of
stepping up the fight against climate change by limiting the
rise in global temperatures and reducing the risk of more
extreme weather, crop failures and rising seas levels.
The United Nations says pledges on the table to rein in
greenhouse gas emissions are just 60 percent of what scientists
say is required to have a medium chance of preventing a 2 deg C
rise and avoid dangerous climate change.
A tougher climate pact is crucial in shaping global energy
policies and giving investors more certainty and will fuel
growth in carbon markets now worth more than $120 billion.
Tougher targets for emissions cuts and steps by developing
nations to make their economies more efficient boost investment
in cleaner energy, transport and greener buildings.
Global investment in renewable energy in 2010 reached $243
billion, Ernst & Young said in a report last month.
The problem, though, is that rich nations won't up their
pledges to cut emissions unless their competitors do and unless
they are certain developing countries are meeting their
That lack of trust undermines the talks. Kyoto is at the
heart of the trust issue. Many rich nations say Kyoto no longer
reflects the reality that developing nations are now the
largest, and rapidly growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
They must be brought into a broader pact.
Japan, Russia, Canada and the United States, which never
ratified Kyoto, are all firmly opposed to extending Kyoto and
want a new agreement. India, China and other developing nations
disagree, saying Kyoto must remain and that rich nations need to
do more to cut emissions.
"A second commitment period and the Kyoto Protocol is a
must. There is no room to make any compromise from my side,"
senior Chinese delegate Huang Huikang said on Thursday.
Analysts saw the fight over Kyoto as far from over.
"Emerging economies do not appear close to abandoning Kyoto
and any that backs away from the protocol risks a backlash from
the rest of the group, reducing the likelihood that any
individual country would unilaterally shift its position," said
Divya Reddy of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.
Some nations say any backsliding from Kyoto endangered the
"We haven't got an alternative and an alternative isn't
going to happen quick enough. We have to accept that the Kyoto
Protocol, at least for the next commitment period, is a bridge
towards a broader agreement," Ian Fry, the lead delegate from
the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, told Reuters.
The United States has been accused of being a roadblock in
the talks because of its failure to pass a climate bill and a
resurgent Republican party means it can't boost its carbon cut
pledge of minus 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said in a speech on Wednesday
the United States was not opposed to any future plan that
includes binding international obligations to cut emissions "if
they genuinely apply to all the major players". [ID:nN06225076]
But he said they were not necessary because "it is the
national plans for countries, written into law and regulations
that count and bind", sentiments that infuriate developing
countries who say a tougher international pact is vital.
"You can ask developing countries to do all sorts of
things," said Hans Verolme, a veteran climate adviser for
governments and NGOs, saying rich nations that are part of Kyoto
need to deepen carbon cuts and take on new legal commitments.
"Otherwise, what legal incentive is there for developing
countries to sign a deal that condemns them to the consequences
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)