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10 September 2010

Kyoto: the never-ending treaty

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UN climate change chief says absence of a "sunset clause" means Kyoto will live on as a second protocol after 2012 even if talks fail
With negotiations to extend or the replace the Kyoto Protocol deadlocked, attention is increasingly turning to what happens to the international climate change agreement when it expires in 2012 if long-running UN talks fail to end in a deal. The answer, says Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change secretariat, is nothing.

According to reports in India's Economic Times, Figueres confirmed this week that the Kyoto Protocol could continue after 2012 as a second protocol, because the original agreement does not contain a "sunset" clause.

Figueres explained that the original Kyoto Protocol would continue to apply, regardless of whether nations agree to extend it through a "second commitment period" or agree a new treaty.

"What the governments are negotiating now is the second commitment period," she said. "But the Kyoto Protocol [will] continue to exist - whether there is going to be a second commitment period or whether countries want to take all of the elements of the Kyoto Protocol and put them in a different framework, that is for them to decide."

The distinction is significant, as it means the legal framework for the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon offsetting scheme and other carbon trading initiatives could survive even if the long-running UN talks to agree a new deal collapse.

The precise nature of the international agreement to replace or extend Kyoto is one of the many sticking points hampering the UN negotiations.

Industrialised nations are lobbying for an entirely new treaty to be agreed to replace the Kyoto Protocol, while developing countries want to see the legal framework established by Kyoto retained and extended.


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