|Ambassador Colin Beck, Solomon Islands Ambassador to the UN|
3 December, Cancun, Mexico - After five days of negotiations, Solomon Islands Ambassador the United Nations in New York, Colin Beck shared with Climate Pasifika Media Journalist, Makereta Komai his thoughts on what has been achieved so far from the climate change negotiations currently underway in Cancun, Mexico.
Ambassador Beck: Things are moving but as you will appreciate, these are difficult issues and they have their own pace and time to deal with. These difficult issues have been there for the last three years and continue to hamper progress. But, there is progress. After all the talks this past few days, we are beginning to understand each other more, working on a common text. We should start delivering some decisions on Sunday. On Saturday (04 Dec) we will take a stock take so it will be an appropriate time to see things through.
Q: What are some of the issues that’s likely to be in these set of decisions that you hope will be ready Sunday?
Ambassador Beck: Most of the groups that have been broken up into smaller groups are basically working on these decisions. One of the important ones for the small island developing states is the legal form discussion which happened today (Friday). We keep talking about having a legally binding agreement but we need some sort of Work Programme to achieve that. This is being discussed in an informal manner in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA). The AOSIS view was to have a decision on having a discussion leading to a legally binding agreement.
Q: So there is now a formal process to discuss legal form?
Ambassador Beck: From today’s consultations, the facilitator has heard AOSIS on this and will be taking the matter to the COP President to look into this and to try and include it as part of the outcomes from the Cancun negotiations. We hope that during the intercessional meetings leading to South Africa, we will have on-going discussions in a formalised way. At the moment, it’s being done in an informal manner in which a Mexican envoy is consulting with various negotiating groups. What we are saying is that we need to get everybody under one roof to start the process of looking at the form of a new legally binding agreement.
Q: What exactly is the legal form?
Ambassador Beck: We are talking about two things – one is the Convention, which we are proposing some legal form. It basically is to take stock of where things are, to have a vision, to effect technology transfer. It’s one thing to talk about finance and hear pledges and another thing to have a legal power to force donors to deliver. If a country has a commitment of $600 billion, they must be held accountable by a legally binding agreement that forces them to live up to their promise.
Q: Does that mean then, currently, whatever set of decisions that out of the LCA and KP negotiations will not be legally binding?
Ambassador Beck: What is happening now is all the different working groups are trying to have a set of decisions leading up to Durban in South Africa. There are a lot of unfinished business in terms of negotiations but we need a process to capture where we are and to have the process continue or otherwise we will be like Copenhagen. As soon as we finished, we have to start again and come up with new text and work their way back to the previous negotiations.
But under the Kyoto Protocol, there is a legal requirement that Parties need to go into a second commitment period. This is not voluntary but a legal requirement under the Protocol. Only the United States is not bound by the Protocol but other Parties will need to look at that second commitment period. For the Kyoto Protocol, it’s only going to be amendments where we basically put in new targets to achieve temperature that will ensure the health of the environment.
Q: In the AOSIS proposal, Ambassador Dessima Williams said this was not the first time that AOSIS has brought a proposal like this to COP – it also did for the Kyoto Protocol..
Ambassador Beck: Even if we look back in history, the Kyoto Protocol was a draft presented by AOSIS.SO it’s not something new to the AOSIS. But we have done in terms of the Protocol is put in some amendments to capture the current status of the negotiations and off course add in commitment numbers for industrialised countries to adhere to.
Q: Japan, Russia and China have now declared their interest not to enter into a second commitment period. What does this mean for the Pacific?
Ambassador Beck: What Japan and others are doing re just restating their positions. It is really unhelpful when we are all supposed to look for common grounds. If we restate positions it means we are not moving the process along. I think they are legally bounded by the Protocol to adopt a second commitment period. It’s not like a political declaration. We cannot treat this international treaty and use them at our convenience to serve our interest. They also need to observe their global commitment to reduce the global temperature as climate change will also affect Japan, Russia and Canada. They really have to be part of the solution rather than isolate themselves. This may be their negotiating strategy but it’s most unfortunate that it’s happening here in Cancun.
Q: The argument that Japan is advancing is that the Kyoto Protocol’s commitments are much less than what the Copenhagen Accord requires, thus the need not to continue with KP.
Ambassador Beck: Let us look at the second commitment period and make sure that the commitments are more than the Copenhagen Accord. Let me make it clear, the Copenhagen Accord is done voluntarily whereas the Kyoto Protocol is a legally binding agreement. A recent report by UNEP revealed that even the Copenhagen Accord will not achieve the less than 2 degrees. It’s only a commitment, whether the countries will adhere to it is another thing. This is where for small island states we need the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol to give us certainty that we will survive. We don’t need to gamble our survival. What we are asking within the KP is to have ambitious targets. The first target was a first commitment and it has a period. And legally, that period will come to an end in 2012. So that is the reason why 2013 must be more higher than he Copenhagen Accord pledges. We should not try to look it by just comparing the two. Both of them are already dangerous. If we maintain business as usual, then certainly the impact for Pacific Island Countries would be worse. If we go along with what the pledges in the Copenhagen Accord, we will see temperatures rise by more than 3 degrees. So either way, it is still frightening. Therefore, we need a second commitment period with more ambitious targets than the first period.