By Julio César Centeno
Canada has a special interest in undermining the Kyoto Protocol because it has placed a very high priority on the approval by the United States government of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would allow the transport of extra-heavy oil from Alberta to refineries located in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, for processing and further distribution in the United States for decades. The project implies the definitive renunciation by both countries of any global attempt to reduce carbon emissions and avoid a temperature rise greater than 2 ° C.
Canada opened fire in Durban by referring to the Kyoto Protocol as "a thing of the past"
When the Kyoto Protocol entered into force, Canada made the commitment to reduce its emissions for the five-year period 2008-2012 by 6% compared to 1990. However, its emissions are currently 30% higher than in 1990 False promises that, although in principle they are binding, in practice lack mechanisms to guarantee their fulfillment.
Canada has a special interest in undermining the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding instrument of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Both his multinational corporations and his government have assigned a very high priority to the approval by the United States government of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would cross the United States from north to south, some 3,000 kilometers from the Canadian province of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. This pipeline would allow the transport of extra-heavy oil extracted from the Alberta tar sands to refineries located in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, for processing and subsequent distribution in the United States for decades. The project has been classified as strategic and a priority both by the Canadian government and by the North American oil lobby. It implies the definitive renunciation by both countries of any global attempt to reduce carbon emissions and avoid a temperature increase greater than 2 ° C. It is currently awaiting approval from the North American Congress.
Total emissions from mining, extraction and upgrading of this type of bitumen are 50% higher than those of conventional oil produced in Canada. The United States Environmental Protection Agency warns: "We estimate that greenhouse gas emissions from the exploitation of Canadian oil sands will be approximately 82% higher than the average for those from crude refined in the United States in the life cycle from well to fuel tank ”.
By 2020, 100 million tons per year in emissions from this project are projected. The pipeline puts the economic interests of oil companies and political interests in both countries before the security and needs of future generations, not only of North Americans in both countries, but of the entire planet. James Hanson, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, points out that if this pipeline is built, "it will be the coup de grace to the planetary climate balance."
The United States also rules out any possibility of joining the Kyoto Protocol targets in a possible second commitment period. "Kyoto is not an option for the United States," said Todd Stern, head of the North American delegation.
While Canada and the United States are dedicated to undermining the Kyoto Protocol, the head of the Chinese delegation, Su Wei, defines it as essential for the progress of the negotiations, the cornerstone of a global agreement to stop global warming. This position is shared by the vast majority of developing countries.
"Durban must not become the tomb of the Kyoto Protocol, but the birthplace of its second period of commitments," said Silvia Merega, Ambassador of Argentina, on behalf of the Group of 77. "The protocol must not only be preserved, but strengthened ”. He added that it should be complemented by commitments from developing countries in the fight against climate change.
The spokesman for the Africa group, Seymi Nafo, said: "We cannot endanger the lives of millions of people. We cannot delay the signing of a second period of the Protocol." The African Group brings together 54 nations, those that contribute the least and suffer the most from climate change.
The industrialized nations that refuse to assume commitments to reduce global warming "give themselves the right to continue poisoning the planet," Daniel Ortega reproached from Nicaragua. While the head of the Bolivian delegation, René Orellana, highlighted: "If the Kyoto Protocol ends, the Convention ends."
Brazil also insists that the Kyoto Protocol be extended until 2020. "If Kyoto dies, the countries will never again be able to assume mandatory targets," said André Aranha Correa do Lago, Environment Director of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. Brazil, which advocates that emerging nations also make commitments, has highlighted that it has made its intention to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 38% by 2020 into a national law.
"If the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012, is not renewed in Durban, it will be a great disaster for multilateralism," Correa do Lago warned. "If we do not achieve the second Kyoto commitment period, we are going to have a literally dramatic situation for the multilateral negotiations."
The European Union (EU) has proposed a roadmap to develop a new treaty that, signed in 2015 and implemented in 2020, will bind not only developed countries, but also emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil. The head of the Brazilian delegation described the proposal as "maximalist in origin", while defending the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. In his opinion, "even if countries like Brazil, India or China made great progress in combating poverty, we are still developing countries. It makes no sense that we have the same obligations as countries that are already developed and also they are the main responsible for the accumulated emissions in the atmosphere ”.
Representatives of the European Union insist that the world needs a much more ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a plan that goes beyond the Kyoto Protocol.
The Green Climate Fund
In the previous negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancún, it was agreed to create a cooperation fund to promote mitigation and adaptation activities to global warming by developing countries. This cooperation would come from industrialized countries and would reach 10,000 million dollars annually during the period 2010-2012. It would then increase to reach $ 100 billion annually by 2020. However, in practice, the formation of such a fund tends to be delayed and to become an additional false promise.
The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), pointed out that the Green Fund should not become "an empty basket of false promises" and asked developed nations to contribute 1.5 percent of their Gross Domestic Product . The International Energy Agency estimates that at least $ 600 billion a year is needed between 2010 and 2020 to meet the most urgent needs created by global warming.
The constitution of the fund is subject to discrepancies between industrialized economies and developing countries, although it is one of the main tasks of the Durban summit. In Cancun, a Transition Committee was appointed to design the Fund mechanisms, which will channel contributions from industrialized countries to developing countries. However, Brazil "is not satisfied" with the Committee's report as it fears that it will "allow an apology for the funds not to appear."
The Committee proposes, among other points, that the World Bank act as interim administrator of the Fund, subject to a review three years later. "We are not against the World Bank, but first we have to resolve the legal and operational structure and the Fund's relationship with the COP (Conference of the Parties)," said the Brazilian delegate.
One of the crucial aspects in dispute is the control of said fund, given the evident intention of the industrialized countries to exercise dominion over the fundamental decisions involved, which would expose the developing countries to commercial and political arbitrariness similar to those already existing in other financial mechanisms, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and regional development banks. Another relevant aspect is the relationship between the Green Fund and the already recognized need to transfer less polluting technologies from industrialized countries to developing countries.
Others demand a transparent and democratic fund, with social and environmental interests. The intentions of the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom to convert the Green Climate Fund into a corporate fund have also been denounced.
The Green Fund was conceived to transfer resources from industrialized countries to developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change. But some industrialized countries propose that multinational corporations can benefit from this fund. These corporations could have direct access to public funds to the detriment of developing countries' national strategies to combat climate change. This would turn the Green Fund into a corporate fund, an unacceptable attempt to seize resources destined to support the poorest countries in their fight against climate change.
Among the possible consequences is the diversion of the green fund to subsidize the development of less polluting technologies, which are later protected by patents in favor of private companies. The technologies that are developed from the green fund should be freely available to all equally.
The role given to the World Bank to manage the Fund has also been questioned, due to its dark record in financing highly polluting and destructive projects, prioritizing corporate benefits and ignoring the social and environmental impact of the activities it finances.
A high-level committee proposed to establish a tax of US $ 25 per ton on carbon emissions from maritime and air transport, which would generate about 10 billion dollars a year that would go to the green fund. However, the United States is opposed, stressing that contributions should originate primarily from private initiative.
Some 50,000 cargo ships carry 90% of the trade in products between countries. Most consume bunker fuel, a highly polluting fuel. The United Nations maritime organization decided last year that every new cargo ship must meet energy efficiency standards to reduce pollution.
A few days from concluding, the Durban climate change negotiations can produce only limited progress in the global effort to prevent an irreversible destabilization of the planetary climate balance. At no time has the climate threat, global warming or its relationship to human activity been questioned. The divergences are limited to the distribution of responsibilities for the threat to which the international community is currently subjected, the distribution and implications of the unavoidable emissions of the coming decades, the control of the green fund and the cost that the different countries for the rest of the century.
Durban promises to conclude agreements to continue negotiating, delaying the realization of an effective global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and highlighting the few possible achievements in the current rarefied negotiating climate. A final politically correct statement will highlight some limited progress on the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the operation of the long-awaited Green Fund, albeit with extremely limited resources to achieve the goals set.
An effective global agreement to address the climate threat only looks possible by the end of the decade. It could be finalized in 2015 to go into effect in 2020. By then, developing countries will find themselves with an even more restrictive scenario than the current one to overcome poverty and meet the most pressing needs of their population.
The delay in the conclusion of a global agreement on global warming mainly benefits the most polluting and technologically better-equipped economies, while reducing the atmospheric space and the options that developing countries require to overcome their most pressing vulnerabilities.
Julius Caesar Centeno - December 6, 2011