Danish climate envoy backs post-Kyoto accord

by Daisuke Yamamoto

Kyodo News

A senior Danish negotiator on climate change has urged relevant governments to deliver on their pledges to fight global warming under the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord, given that a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty still appears years away.

In an interview in Tokyo, Bo Lidegaard, permanent undersecretary of state at the prime minister’s office, also cast doubt on the prospect of China and the United States — the world’s two largest carbon dioxide emitters not obliged to reduce their carbon emissions — joining such a treaty any time soon due to their political constraints.

Lidegaard’s remarks in Tokyo on Feb. 2 came at a time when hope has all but faded for a new binding pact at a U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa, later this year, with eyes now on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, under which the current reduction obligation period expires at the end of 2012.

At the climate talks in Copenhagen in late 2009, world leaders produced the nonbinding accord, under which 140 countries made voluntary pledges to rein in heat-trapping gases. The pledges were brought into the U.N. climate process during the conference in Cancun, Mexico, last December.

Although the agreement doesn’t force any country to observe their reduction targets, Lidegaard said, “I find it very important that all countries actually fulfill what they pledged under the Copenhagen-Cancun process.”

Lidegaard conceded that the current pledges under the accord, even when they are all added up, would fail to meet the goal of holding the future rise of global temperatures below 2 degrees above preindustrial levels to avert serious impact.

But Lidegaard argued that the Copenhagen process codified at the last U.N. conference has enabled countries to start acting on their pledges even in the absence of a new binding pact.

Among the countries that have attached themselves to the accord are China, the United States and Japan, which has pledged a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020.

On the likelihood that the United States and China may sign on to a legally binding treaty soon, Lidegaard said, “If you look at the political calendar in those two countries . . . it’s very hard to imagine a major shift of policy in any of the countries this year.”

The U.S., where Republicans have made gains in Congress, will have a presidential election next year, while China is planning a leadership change in the same year.