UN talks must save Kyoto or 'collapse': AOSIS

17th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

UN talks struggling to forge a response to global warming must salvage the embattled Kyoto Protocol or risk collapse, the head of a 43-nation bloc of island nations said Friday.

"Some countries are willing to commit to a second commitment period," said Grenada's Dessima Williams, chair of the the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

"It is not anywhere near the full coverage that will be needed," she told AFP on the sidelines of a negotiating session of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ending Friday.

"However, it is either that or the complete collapse of the system."

Kyoto, which covers 37 industrialised countries, is the only international deal with binding targets for curbing greenhouse gases.

A first commitment period expires at the end of 2012, and the fate of the treaty remains in limbo.

Japan, Canada and Russia have all opted out of new commitments, and the European Union has said that its further participation cannot be taken for granted.

Washington helped craft the protocol but never ratified it, saying it was fatally flawed because developing giants such as China -- which has since become the world's top carbon polluter -- faced no emissions constraints.

These major emerging economies and other developing countries today insist that rich countries must renew their carbon cutting vows.

AOSIS nations are likely to be hit first and hardest by climate change, especially rising sea levels and more intense storms, scientists say. Impacts are already being felt, said Williams.

"We are seeing more extreme weather events, loss of water supply, fish stocks are not looking good, coral reefs are in trouble, and climate scientists are predicting a very intense hurricane season," she said.

"The Marshall Islands and other nations are beginning to loose not just coast but large swathes of territory."

Despite, or perhaps because, of these impacts, the AOSIS bloc has shown an increasing willingness to find a middle ground in the complex, multi-track climate talks.

Even if a scaled-down second round of Kyoto commitments -- including the European Union and a few other small nations -- only covers 12 or 13 percent of global CO2 emissions, the Protocol should be preserved, Williams insisted.

"It is better to have that than having nothing at all," she said. "The value of the Kyoto Protocol is that it helps us to collect data, and to observe and to monitor."

At the same time, she added, rich nations must "raise their level of ambition."

Under current trajectories, "We are looking at a 4.0 degree Celsius (9.2 degree Fahrenheit) increase in global average temperatures," she said.

Any increase of more than 2.0 C (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels puts Earth is a danger zone, UN scientists have said.

© 2011 AFP

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