Gradual progress on global climate talks | Connect Asia

Gradual progress on global climate talks

Gradual progress on global climate talks

Updated 18 January 2012, 18:00 AEDT

Negotiations to get a new global agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol on climate change are making progress.

Confidence was deflated when last year's Copenhagen conference failed to seal a binding international deal. But Copenhagen did produce a political agreement with key commitments including limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees celcius, as well as adaptation financing for poor nations. Officials are now in the process of making those commitments work, ahead of the next UN conference in the Mexican resort of Cancun later this year. They've been negotiating in the past two weeks in Germany, where some progress has been made.

Presenter: Linda Mottram

Louise Hand, Australian Ambassador for Climate Change

LOUISE HAND: We've got a very good chair, a Zimbabwean woman who I think has been very deliberate and thoughtful in trying to draw those Copenhagen outcomes into the UNFCCC process and there is a lot of support for that in the negotiation. At the same time, you've still got countries who are not comfortable with that approach and so you would not say that was going to have an easy run, but this stuff is there. It is now part of the collective thinking. But the Bonn meeting followed this tremendously successful red meeting in Oslo. The Norwegian Government has given a round about a billion US dollars to Indonesia for work on forests and this is a bold and heroic move on both governments parts. It is a wonderful breakthrough globally for forests.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Still it can't be left to those one off bold gestures, can it, and Yvo De Boer, the outcoming UNFCCC head said, look the fact remains that pledges by industrial countries fall well short of what's needed to give even a 50 per cent chance of keeping global temperature rise below two degrees. Do you see any way that it is going to be possible to increase the level of ambition that's needed there?

LOUISE HAND: Well, negotiation's continuing towards a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and you have got that group of pledges in the Copenhagen accord. I just think we have to keep trying all of us, emitting country governments need to keep trying and that includes both developed and developing emitting countries and I think there is movement. I can't predict whether pledges will end up and whether where we will get to, but you have got a lot of governments who feel it very strongly and who are working very solidly towards it.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Just some other particular areas. I mean for example, the push by the small island states for a technical review over their concern that they just can't survive a two degree temperature rise scenario. I think they want it limited to one point five degrees, but that was scuppered by Saudi Arabia and big oil producing nations from what I understand?

LOUISE HAND: There are a very wide range of views on this in the negotiation generally, but the Copenhagen accord was able to settle on the two degree figure. Now that was really an important breakthrough, that's the first time the negotiation was able to agree to a figure. That said, when Australia talks about it and when a lot of other countries talk about it, we say two degrees or less or 450 parts per million or less, because we acknowledge that those countries have a different policy position and they have got a body of research that has sort of furnished this position of one point five or 350. We are sympathetic to the way they describe their need for adaptation and for assistance with mitigation and I just think getting to the two degrees or less is a big thing.

LINDA MOTTRAM: The other big issue, you mentioned forests and I mean Australia takes some heat for not being fully accountable for its emissions and for in fact for relying on this being a participant in creating this loophole in the Kyoto agreement that means that we're not fully accountable. I guess the big question is will Australia accept mandatory full carbon accounting for emissions that it can control from the land sector?

LOUISE HAND: Look there is a lot of folklore in what you have just said. That loophole talk, it does not really have a lot of authenticity in the negotiation and more broadly. The fact is that under the Kyoto Protocol, which only applies to developed countries as you know, the land sector is not generally thought to be comprehensive enough and one of the things that we are all doing at the moment is trying to find ways to include more of the land sector and to be more inclusive generally and that includes forests. It's really too early to say where Australia's position will be, because we have not got to that point yet in the negotiation, but there will be a certain point where we will get a greater sort of understanding of what's required for the land sector rules and then there will be a whole lot of countries that have national interest requirements that kick in and it will be a negotiation, we'll get the best we can. But we are part of a far broader group of countries trying to find ways to include more of the land sector.

LINDA MOTTRAM: But clearly we cannot continue with a situation where we don't account for forests that we chop down, but we get credit for ones that we plant?

LOUISE HAND: Well, this still remains to be resolved.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Can you see a way at this stage where there can be agreement between the diverse positions on measurement reporting and verifying and those fundamental elements of a deal?

LOUISE HAND: That is one of the toughest nuts to crack and there is a lot of work being done in the margins of the negotiation by various think tanks and NGO's and individual governments are all sort of going back to the drawing board and just seeing what it might look like. These are very complicated questions, but one of the very attractive parts of this discussion is that it was the Indian Government that in some ways came up with one of the ideas behind how this would work and this is a good thing that you have got major developing countries who see it in their interests to try and make this work.

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