Home News Kyoto on the line as S. Africa preps UN climate talks

Kyoto on the line as S. Africa preps UN climate talks

Published on 02/08/2011

South African ministers hosting UN climate talks in December said the meeting must focus on keeping alive the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding global deal to cut greenhouse gases.

“We don’t want South Africa to be the death of the Kyoto Protocol,” said environment minister Edna Molewa.

“We would like to have some mechanism agreed upon which will ensure that we retain the architecture,” she told journalists in Pretoria.

South Africa’s foreign minister, meanwhile, said Tuesday her country was on track in preparing for the high-level meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“South Africa is very much on schedule, if not ahead of schedule,” said Foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, charged with organising the November 28 – December 9 talks in the eastern port city of Durban.

Kyoto is the only international agreement with binding targets for curbing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 polluters, are not subject to its constraints.

A first five-year commitment period covering 37 industrialised countries expires at the end of 2012.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new round of carbon-cutting vows.

The European Union (EU) says it will only do so if other nations — including emerging giants such as China and India, which do not have binding targets and have thus far refused to take them on — beef up efforts in a parallel negotiating arena.

South Africa has been criticised for dragging its feet ahead of the complex talks, widely seen as a last-ditch chance to renew the emissions reductions targets agreed to in Kyoto in 1997.

But Nkoana-Mashabane said the South African government is committed to putting together a successful meeting, calling Durban “the last stop where we should do something about the commitment … of Kyoto”.

South Africa has scaled down its expectations for the meeting, and now acknowledges that a global deal to beat back the threat of climate change may not be in the cards for this year.

“While we might not get a legally-binding agreement in Durban, voices are saying, ‘Let’s start a discussion on the legal framework of the future, of how we should together sign on some long-term commitment to make sure that we don’t fold our arms and do nothing about the reality that has become climate change,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

But she also said it is too early to predict what will come out of the talks.

“We can’t sit here on the second day of August and prophesy what will be the outcome on December 9. What we can commit to is that we will continue to listen to all voices,” she said.