Saturday 4 December 2010

Q and A with Ambassador Colin Beck, Solomon Islands

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.

Two more countries withdraw from extension to Kyoto Protocol

UN Climate Change Chief Christiana Figueres

“It is of deep concern that we can easily retract from this multilateral agreement. The question is how we deal with these countries who are trying to create an uncertain world" - Ambassador Colin Beck, Solomon Islands Ambassador to the UN

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

04 December 2010 Cancun --- Two more developed nations, Russia and Canada have declared their interest not to continue with the Kyoto Protocol, when it expires in 2012.

They follow Japan’s announcement not to renew another commitment period for the Protocol. Japan reiterated its decision this week during the global climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

UN climate change chief, Christiana Figueres told a media briefing at the end of the weeklong negotiations, “these are decisions taken by sovereign Parties and nothing will change that.”

“Russia and Canada are known positions and there are few more developed countries with similar stated positions.

“The only way out is to find a common ground and compromised solution here at Cancun.

Figueres said there is no way Cancun will be able to deliver a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol.

“Parties need to find a compromise that will make everybody equally comfortable or equally uncomfortable with a view to addressing the issue at a later stage, possibly in South Africa in 2011, said Figueres.

On Japan, Figueres said it has been has been very clear about its position for a long time.

“This is no surprise. However Japan has stated that it will uphold its 25 percent proposal under the Kyoto Protocol, just as developed countries need to do so.

She clarified that Japan’s insistence of a new single legal framework was an attempt to rope in the United States to become part of an agreement that will mandate Parties to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the United States is not a party to the Kyoto Protocol.

But, under the Copenhagen Accord, the United States has committed a 30 percent reduction in 2025 and 42 percent reduction by 2030, in line with the goal to reduce emissions to 83 percent by 20150. This position was submitted to the UN climate change Secretariat in Bonn in January this year.

Given the divergent positions on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, Figueres said the challenge for Cancun is to find a way to formalise these positions within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.

“We need to go beyond the stated positions, beyond national positions and look for areas of compromise so that they can meet each other on the other side.

“These are realities and these positions will not change dramatically here, said Figueres at the end of five days of negotiations.

On the question of avoiding a Kyoto Protocol gap after 2012, Figueres suggests that Parties come to a decision on the future of the Protocol first before the issue of the gap is resolved.

Solomon Islands lead negotiator, Ambassador Colin Beck in a brief response said the Pacific and small island nations are disappointed with the decision of Japan and other countries to withdraw from Kyoto’s second commitment period.

“It is of deep concern that we can easily retract from this multilateral agreement. The question is how we deal with these countries who are trying to create an uncertain world, said Ambassador Beck.

Executive Director of Ole Siosiomaga, an environmental NGO in Samoa, Fiu Elisara says Japan’s stance is unfortunate as many rich countries had not delivered on their commitments under Kyoto.

“It is a huge concern for us because that is the only internationally legally binding agreement that we can hold them to account in terms of commitments they made in Kyoto.

“To date, many of them have not delivered on those commitments and even the promises for a second commitment period are now, as we find in Cancun, very problematic", said Elisara.

At the end of first week of negotiations, a draft text approved in Tianjin in China is still being refined by negotiators, in addition to a Conference Room Paper (CRP) by a Zimbabwean government delegate, Margaret Mukahanana-Sagarwe, who was formerly chair of the Ad Hoc Working on Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA).

“The CRP is a non paper and was prepared to gauge the status of the growing consensus and explore issues that negotiators will need to concentrate more time on, said Figueres.

Along with the LCA text, there is also an emerging text on Kyoto Protocol.

“There is no other secret text emerging from Mexico, as claimed by some. The only texts we have are the LCA, Kyoto Protocol and the non paper that will be tabled on Saturday.