Japan′s quake could shake climate pledges | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 01.04.2011
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Japan's quake could shake climate pledges

Government representatives from around the world have gathered in Bangkok for five days of United Nations climate talks aimed at overcoming obstacles ahead of a major summit at the end of the year.

A stone temple in the forest and a hot air balloon floating by

Japan is a significant donor of climate funds but is facing domestic crises

Hundreds of politicians and climate change advocates have gathered in the Thai capital for talks billed as an opportunity to build on the deal struck in Mexico's Cancun at the end of last year.

In a statement released ahead of the Bangkok meeting, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said Cancun had been "a step forward towards a climate-safe world", but that governments must "move purposefully down the path they have set."

She said she hoped the April meeting would yield a follow-up plan to the Cancun deal, which included the establishment of a $100 billion (€ 70 billion) Green Climate Fund to help developing nations tackle climate change, and a commitment to limit global warming to below two degrees.

Still some way to go

group of activists from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) light on canddles in Cancun (05.12.10)

Cancun made progress, but didn't deliver a new climate treaty

The United Nations says the ambition to significantly reduce emissions will not be reached on the basis of current pledges from industrialized nations.

Figueres urged governments to "maintain momentum" in Bangkok and come up with a clear strategy to stay on track.

Sven Harmeling of Germanwatch, a Bonn-based NGO which monitors climate change policies, told Deutsche Welle that one of the main issues on the agenda would be targets.

"We all know that most of the pledges made so far are not adequate in terms of what we need, and there will be a debate about how this will be approached," Harmeling said.

"At the moment we cannot compare what the different countries have proposed for the next years because there is no agreement on how to calculate what these emissions reductions would mean."

He said there would be a session on Sunday to address the issue.

A financial plan

Another major point is that of the Green Climate Fund, which was first proposed in Copenhagen in 2009 and agreed upon in Mexico.

Harmeling says the talks in Bangkok present the perfect opportunity to set out some details on exactly what shape the fund will take.

"It is still uncertain where this $100 billion is going to come from, and how it will be calculated," he said, adding that the devastation wrought on Japan by last month's tsunami and earthquake could influence how the pot gets filled.

"Japan has played an important role in climate financing, it is one of the important funders," he said.

"There is a risk that they will now step back from that position because they have a lot of economic problems of their own."

Traffic on street in Bangkok

Climate is an issue both in and for Bangkok

The Kyoto debate

Shane Tomlinson of the London-based E3G think-tank told the Reuters news agency that Japan might go even further and say it can no longer meet the requirements set out by the Kyoto agreement.

"This is a significant risk," he said.

The Kyoto protocol, under which 37 nations are committed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, expires at the end of 2012.

Japan, along with Canada and Russia, already opposes its extension on the grounds that it is time for a new agreement for all major emitters.

China, India and other emerging nations disagree. Their targets allow emission to rise but at a slower rate than growth of GDP.

Harmeling does not expect Kyoto to feature heavily on the agenda in Thailand and says it will remain contentious until the next major UN climate summit to be held in South Africa at the end of November.

Reporter: Tamsin Walker
Editor: Nathan Witkop

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