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Cover Stories Series 2011
UPDATED: December 12, 2011
Parties Agree to Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol

The Durban climate conference Sunday agreed to establish a working group to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or a legal framework under the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It is the first inclusive emissions cut arrangement till now, which is expected to come into effect in 2020.

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of  the UNFCCC ended early Sunday morning following nearly two extra days' delay.

In Durban, governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible by 2015. Work will begin on this immediately under a new group called the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-DPEA).

Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet. There is a significant gap between the aggregate effect of countries' mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emissions pathways consistent with having a likely chance of keeping the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees centigrade or 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial level.

In COP 17, the main sticking point is the form and timing of a possible successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only international agreement on global warming, which expires late next year.

Japan, Russia and Canada have refused to join the second commitment period before COP 17 and the United States has never ratified it. If the second commitment period is not adopted, there would be a gap in the legally binding treaty.

Developed nations are the main emitters and should bear the historical responsibilities of pollution. Their failure to fulfill their obligation violates the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities."

In COP 17, the European Union prompted its road map to call for a timetable for everyone to make emissions cut commitments by 2015, and by 2020, a legally binding agreement will take effect.

However, the United States said it will only pledge binding cuts if all major polluters make comparable commitments. China and India were of the opinion that it would be unfair to demand they make the same level of cuts as the developed world, which caused most of the pollution responsible for global warming.

Governments, including 38 industrialized countries, agreed to designate a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013 in COP 17. To achieve rapid clarity, parties to this second period will be required to follow up on the quantified maximum emissions targets.

"This is highly significant because the Kyoto Protocol's accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believed the decision to launch a protocol or legal instrument applicable to all parties under the UNFCCC is essential for stimulating greater action and for raising the level of ambition and the mobilization of resources to respond to the challenges of climate change.

He welcomed the agreement to establish a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that will increase certainty for the carbon market and provides additional incentives for new investments in technology and the infrastructure necessary to fight climate change.

COP 18 is scheduled from November 26 to December 7 of 2012 in Qatar, in close cooperation with South Korea.

(Xinhua News Agency December 11, 2011)

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