Climate vulnerable countries want a new treaty

Updated: 2011-12-03 12:21

By Li Jing (

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DURBAN, South Africa – A group of poorest countries and small island nations have joined the European Union in pushing for a legally binding climate treaty, as the first week of negotiation comes to an end.

The proposals may make emerging economies including China uneasy as they insist that the priority should be set on extending rich countries’ carbon reduction targets under Kyoto Protocol, according to analysts.

The Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), over 80 nations that are prone to climate change-induced disasters, have tabled papers to demand a new legal agreement covering all countries to be finalized within a year.

The proposals are aimed at starting a new process to replace the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period expires next year, according to Selwin Hart, lead negotiator for Barbados, representing the AOSIS countries.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding international treaty that binds industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The developing countries have insisted that industrialized countries should extend their carbon reduction targets under the protocol.

The European Union has said it will only accept the extension when all nations agree to start negotiating a new climate deal with a clear timeline.

In response to such proposals for a new treaty, Su Wei, China’s chief climate negotiator, said the focus right now should be placed on "the actions the countries should take, but not purely the legal form".

"Sometimes the form issue is very important, but normally the form would be determined by the substances," he said.

"And I hope we can make as much progress as possible in the substances from this negotiation,” said Su, referring to a second commitment period under Kyoto and the launching of a green climate fund.

Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate adviser to the US-based Natural Resource Defense Council, agreed with Su that a second commitment period under Kyoto should be secured before talking about other goals.

LDC and AOSIS are still together with other developing countries in demanding for an extension of Kyoto, said Yang.

"But they did not realize that things have to be done step by step," he said, "what they want is get all the things done at one time, and that is quite impossible."

"You have to get your biggest concern addressed in the first place, just like before ordering for a splendid dinner, you have to finish your lunch first," said Yang.

He also noted that such proposals would make the major emerging economies - China, Brazil, India and South Africa - feel a little bit uncomfortable, because they are getting pushed within the bloc of developing countries.