UN agrees to extend Kyoto Protocol

UN agrees to extend Kyoto Protocol

UN agrees to extend Kyoto Protocol

Updated 9 December 2012, 16:17 AEDT

Delegates attending United Nations climate talks in Qatar have agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2020.

The Doha climate talks have closed with a historic shift in principle but few genuine cuts in greenhouse gases.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described the outcome as a first step but says governments must do "far more" to stop rising temperatures.

The deal, agreed to by nearly 200 nations, keeps the protocol as the only legally binding plan for combating global warming.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson has talked up the outcome, saying there is momentum for change.

"Obviously, Australia would be much happier if the whole world immediately got on board," he said.

"But what we are doing is ensuring that Australian industry is there with a predictable regime and is able to tap into those international markets, because that gives them access to the lowest cost abatement measures."

The protocol locks in only developed nations, excluding major developing polluters such as China and India, as well as the United States which refuses to ratify it.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says he remains optimistic a broader deal will be struck by 2015.

"The science is telling us very clearly that we need a wider international agreement including all the major emitters - including the US and China - they're the biggest polluters in the world," he said.

"At this conference we've taken further steps towards having those countries included in a wider agreement. The Kyoto Protocol is just a stepping stone on that path."

The meeting established for the first time that rich countries should move towards compensating poor countries for losses due to climate change.

Developing nations hailed it as a breakthrough, but condemned the gulf between the science of climate change and political attempts to tackle it.

The new pact concluded 12 days of tough haggling in Doha and comes after several days of deadlocked talks.

The talks, scheduled to have closed on Friday, ran a whole day into extra time, paralysed as rich and poor nations faced off on issues including finance and compensation for climate damage.

An extension of Kyoto was finally approved with the 27-member European Union, Australia, Switzerland and eight other industrialised nations signing up for binding emission cuts by 2020.

Conference chairman Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah finally rushed through the package of deals, which he termed the Doha Climate Gateway, riding roughshod over country objections as he swung the gavel in quick succession proclaiming: "It is so decided."

Observers said Russia had been trying to halt the extension of Kyoto, whose first leg expires on December 31.

Moscow objected to the passing of the deal, and noted that it retained the right to appeal the president's action.

One of the key disputes in Doha was "hot air," the name given to greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were given under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use - about 13 billion tonnes in total.

The package also includes agreement to scale up funding to help poor countries deal with global warming and convert to planet-friendlier energy sources.

This had been a key area of dispute, with developed nations under pressure to show how they intend to keep a promise to raise climate funding for poorer nations to $US100 billion per year by 2020 - up from a total of $US30 billion in 2010-2012.

'Hard to be happy'

Andy Atkins, the executive director of environmental group Friends of the Earth, says the talks were a missed opportunity.

He says the countries involved failed to tackle the real issues.

"What the world most needed was that rich countries agree to cut their emissions very very quickly. They've made no such agreement," he said.

"What the world also needed was for rich countries to live up to their promises made three years ago that they would provide big money for developing countries to go green. None of that money is on the table.

"Yes, an agreement has been made, but when you look at the details of the agreement it's hard to be that happy."

ABC/AFP