Bangkok pre-sessional workshop in the main plenary hall (image by: UN Climate Talks)

The current round of Climate negotiations under the UNFCCC in Bangkok comes to a close tomorrow, but do this week’s developments inspire new hope for reaching a binding international agreement on emissions reductions?

The ‘first commitment period’ of the Kyoto Protocol binds 37 industrialised countries to collectively reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels from 2008 – 2012. Despite the imminent expiry of this period, no second commitment period has been agreed.  Even Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, has publically commented that ‘a gap in this effort looks increasingly impossible to avoid.’

Negotiations at Bangkok have been slow to get off the ground, bogged down with discussions related to the agenda itself, rather than making real progress. The AWG-KP has not agreed how to organize their work, and no consensus has been reached on whether to form spin-off groups. So should we be losing patience with these negotiations?

The international mood was desolate after the post-Copenhagen ‘crash of 2009’ leading some to reject a ‘Kyoto type of climate policy’ altogether. It has been argued that trying to reach such a broad international agreement has simply slowed political progress and, at the very least, climate policy must be broken down into its separate issues such as adaptation, forestry, and biodiversity.

However, alternatives to a ‘Kyoto 2’ so far haven’t been good enough to meet the climate challenge. Emission reduction pledges made by individual countries following Copenhagen only account for 60% of the reductions needed to have a medium chance of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees, the target agreed by governments at the Cancun negotiations.

Figueres is optimistic about achieving progress if negotiations continue in a spirit of flexibility and, crucially, compromise. It is too early to tell whether governments will have the political boldness needed to implement a ‘Kyoto 2’, and so we must wait with increasingly nervous anticipation for the next round of talks in Bonn this June.

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