by Samuli Sinisalo
On wednesday, the COP plenary discussed Russias proposal to amend the UN Framework Convention on Climate change.
In the convention countries are divided into different cathegories – and have different responsibilities – according to their development status. These annexes are Annex 1, which includes all the developed countries. have legally binding emission reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol.
There is also another annex, called the Annex 2. That is a group of countries who, in addition to the responsibilities laid out for all Annex 1 countries, have the responsibility to provide financial assisstance to the developing countries, or non-Annex 1 countries. In practice Annex 2 includes all the A1 countries, except the Eastern European economies in transition.
The developing countries are known non-Annex 1 countries. They have no legally binding emission reduction commitments under the Convention, or the the Kyoto Protocol. Their primary concern is development and poverty eradication – not cutting emissions.
The problem is that this division was created twenty years ago, in 1991. Since then a lot has happened – many countries that were underdeveloped two decades ago are now seen as the global economic engines, notably the BASIC countries, Brazil, South-Africa, India and China.
Especially the United States has had problems to accept emission reduction targets, while the BASICs have no obligations to reduce their emissions as they are non-Annex 1 countries.
On wednesday afternoon the the COP plenary discussed Russias proposal to add a mechanism to the convention that would enable this division from 1991 to be reviewed by the COP periodically. This idea received wide support from the COP, only Saudi-Arabia spoke against it saying that the historic responsibility that the developed countries have on climate change has not changed since 1991.
The President of COP 17 will take this proposal forward and take it to consultations. If designed carefully, this could help open the deadlock that climate negotiations have been in for several years.