On the first day of the 16th annual climate change conference that began in Cancun on Monday, it became clear that the countries had made little progress from the failed previous meet in Copenhagen, but had actually moved backwards on certain issues. The opening day of the two-week conference saw countries restating their old positions and bickering on how to take the troubled talks forward.
In fact, the day started with Papua New Guinea calling for suspension of the principle of having a decision only by consensus, as required under the UN process, so that a majority view could prevail. Papua New Guinea said such a move had become necessary because a small group of countries were blocking progress.
Papua New Guinea’s contention was, however, strongly contested by India, Yemen and Saudi Arabia who argued that consensus decision-making was at the heart of the UN process and it had delivered results in the past.
Both the Kyoto Protocol as well as the Bali Action Plan were results of decisions by consensus, India pointed out. It said the recent meeting of the Conference on Biological Diversity — another UN-driven process — at Nagoya in Japan had also delivered an important agreement by consensus.
India lamented the fact that there was very little progress on extending the Kyoto Protocol — that specifies the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for a group of rich countries — beyond 2012 when its current life-span comes to an end. A number of other countries made the same point during their interventions.
But Japan — one of the countries that has a reduction target under Kyoto Protocol — surprised many when it said it would not agree to an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, even if it was completely isolated, till some framework was evolved that included emissions reductions from the US, China and India.
These three of the five biggest emitters, are all out of the current emissions reduction regime. The US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is therefore not a part of it while China and India, being developing countries with very little contributions to global emissions before 1990, are not required to reduce their emissions.
But while there was very little in terms of substance, the hosts and the organisers of the conference did try to get the atmospherics right.
Suggesting that the Copenhagen conference had probably become a victim of “too much hype”, Danish climate minister Lykke Friis, the outgoing president of the conference, warned the countries against swinging to the other extreme this time.