Path to Solve Climate Talks: Be Clear about Targets and Honour Commitments


13 June 2011

BONN — Today, Ambassador Pablo Solon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia addressed reporters at the UN climate talks in Germany.  Ambassador Solon outlined a clear plan, based on submissions from other countries and civil society, on how to move the talks forward in 2011.

“The key issue at these talks is the gap between how much climate pollution we need to reduce and how much countries are committed to reducing.  We call that the ‘gap’ and it’s the difference between 4C of warming and 2C of warming.  The Cancun outcome sets us on a path to 4C,” Ambassador Solon Said.

“Some countries want to talk about the ‘rules’ first, instead of this gap in commitment, but we know that rules will not reduce this gap.  Fixing rules will simply prevent the gap from increasing, it won’t set about actually reducing emissions.  The heart of the matter is the depth of pollution cuts,” Ambassador Solon said.

“More incredible is the suggestion by some countries that they want the market mechanisms from the Kyoto Protocol but do not want to have the legally binding targets of the Kyoto Protocol.  You can’t say I’m not coming to the party but please send all the gifts to my house,” Ambassador Solon said.

Ambassador Solon made a presentation that showed the effect of temperature rise on the Chacaltaya glacier in the Andes.  Chacaltaya has already receded significantly with only 0.8C of recorded warming.

“If you talk about 4C of temperature rise, which is what the Cancun outcome sets us up for, then you talk about a catastrophe for the Andes.  This why it is important to us, to small island states, to Africa to close the gap so we don’t end up with 4C,” Ambassador Solon said.

Ambassador Solon provided data from workshops at the UN talks last week which highlight that in terms of gigatonnes of emissions the world must collectively emit no more than 42-44 gigatonnes of C02e in 2020, down from a business as usual prediction of 56 C02e gigatonnes.

“We need to reduce 12-14 gigatonnes but we are currently, in the best case scenario only at 7 gigatonnes.  More concerning is that developing countries are doing more than developed countries — an incredibly unfair state of affairs given that each person in developed countries emits four times as much as those in developing countries and in historical terms have emitted over 10 times as much,”  Ambassador Solon said.

Ambassador Solon highlighted Article 4.2 (a) of the UN Convention on Climate Change, which all countries had agreed to in 1992 and which required developed countries to ‘peak’ their emissions by the year 2000.

“Yet that peaking has not yet begun.  Globally we know we need to collectively peak before 2020 but if developed countries to do not peak first it becomes impossible to ask developing countries to reduce their emissions more severely, given the historical contribution of developed countries,” Ambassador Solon said.

To respond to the current deadlock in talks Ambassador Solon proposed a six-step path:

  1. Agreement on the size of the gap (12-14 Gigatonnes of CO2e)
  2. Recognise that developed countries will need to take a larger share of the reduction.
  3. Agree on parameters for sharing the burden, based on historical responsibility and capacity of the parties.
  4. Have developed countries’ emissions peak immediately.
  5. Represent every country’s target in terms of gigatonnes, defined as reductions from domestic emission levels and without the use of ‘offsets’.
  6. Agreement on legal actions for parties that do not fulfil their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (for a second commitment period) and under the Convention.

In response to a question regarding the abuse of the consensus rule at the Cancun talks, the Ambassador said:

“We are at this moment in a process of analysing the different options.  We are currently considering the amendments proposed by Mexico and Papua New Guinea to change the rules on voting and consensus.  We note that the fact they are asking for such a change suggests they were acting incorrectly at the time.  If they were following the rules in Cancun then why would they need to change them now?”

In response to a question regarding consultations with South Africa in preparation for the African-hosted UN Climate Conference in December, the Ambassador said:

“Most parties have come to an understanding that a new legally binding agreement is not going to happen by Durban.  That is not possible, there is no time.  So the option from Bolivia and G77 [a group of 131 developing countries] is a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with targets that close the gap.  Others are saying something we don’t understand — ‘let’s have a political commitment’ — to be clear without the continuation of Kyoto what does this mean?  It means there will be a legal gap as well as a scientific gap in the pledges, a very bad scenario.”

In response to a question regarding the breach of legal commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the Convention, and other international treaties, including human rights treaties, the Ambassador said:

“Developed countries will not breach their Kyoto targets.  The problem is that there is such a big amount of ‘hot air emissions’ [over allocated emissions to former soviet economies who had their industrial capacity collapse since 1990] that any party not making their targets can simply buy carry-overs and say they had ‘achieved’ that goal even though it didn’t happen.”

“The legal problem for developed countries is that they have an obligation to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol under its Article 3 (9). This is the breach to watch out for.”

“We believe the issue is much bigger than just commitments and targets, and that those considering human rights breaches are correct.  For example, it is estimated that 47 million people will have to migrate because of climate change.  We have been advocating for an international court of climate justice.  This would monitor the impacts and the suffering not only of people but of Mother Earth because of climate change.  For the glaciers in the Andes, desertification in Africa, disappearing small island states — they need to present demands and find justice and we are proposing it to these talks under work going forward.”

For more information, email Gadir Lavadenz, <>.

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