Belarus negotiator hints at Kyoto exit, says others could follow

DOHA/LONDON Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:43pm GMT

Related Topics

DOHA/LONDON (Reuters) - Belarus, one of three fossil-fuel reliant states outmanoeuvred at Kyoto pact talks by small island states endangered by climate change, said it may consider quitting the process and Ukraine and Kazakhstan may do the same.

United Nations climate talks in Qatar ended on Saturday with around 190 countries throwing a lifeline to the Kyoto Protocol which was due to expire in a few weeks.

The 1997 treaty, which binds almost 40 industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions until the end of 2012, will keep going until 2020, but its impact will be weaker as it covers less than 15 percent of the world's emissions.

This year's round of talks was tasked with extending the Kyoto Protocol until 2020 and hammering out details on a successor treaty that, unlike Kyoto, would bind all nations.

U.N. envoys from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine arrived in Doha aiming to sign up to lax emissions cut targets under Kyoto, allowing them to sell carbon credits to European companies with emission caps.

Russia and Ukraine have sold billions of dollars of credits under Kyoto's offset market, called Joint Implementation.

Armed with plans to launch domestic carbon markets to restrain rises in greenhouse gas emissions, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine also hoped to persuade the U.N. to allow them a target that would let their emissions rise enough not to crimp their economic growth.

When a draft law was put forward on Saturday morning it looked like the three would buck the trend of countries rejecting Kyoto and alongside the EU, Australia and a handful of other nations sign up to legally binding caps on emissions.

But the three fossil-fuel reliant eastern European countries, which account for just 1 percent of global emissions, were pitted against around 40 small island nations threatened by rising sea levels.

FRANTIC

In the final moments of the conference the delegations of the three nations found, buried in an annex to the document, a complicated provision that capped their emissions at 2008-2010 levels - the height of the financial crisis when the increase in their emissions slowed - for the next eight years.

Negotiators say the provision was put there by the small island states who want an agreement that says all nations should have to cut emissions under a new deal.

An official with the Belarus delegation said he would recommend that Minsk now abandon the treaty, just 48 hours after it was extended.

"I will probably suggest the Ministry of Environment in forthcoming meetings to withdraw the letter of consent given in Doha for the country to join Kyoto 2 and not ratify the treaty. Ukraine and Kazakhstan may do the same," said Alexandre Grebenkov, who works for the U.N. Development Program and negotiates on behalf of Belarus.

Officials from Kazakhstan declined to comment while those from Ukraine were not immediately available.

"Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus got snookered," said one senior negotiator from a developing nation who has attended U.N. climate meetings for the last decade.

Island state negotiators say the provision in the annex was backed by the European Union. A European Commission spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

With emissions rising almost 10 percent in 2011 in Belarus and Ukraine, any restraints could curb energy and manufacturing production and hit plans for economic development. Such curbs could also hinder Kazakhstan's energy-led economy.

Russia had helped table a compromise amendment that would have allowed the three former Soviet nations to stick with their original pledges, according to sources.

But less than an hour later, the vice prime minister of Qatar who chaired the talks, gaveled through the texts to make them international law, ignoring Russia's negotiator who was standing nearby desperately trying to halt the process.

Oleg Shamanov, Russia's head of delegation called it an "absolutely obvious violation of the procedure", while Christiana Figueres, the U.N.'s climate chief, said a consensus was reached.

The issue highlights the complexity of the U.N. talks where negotiators seek agreement from 194 countries.

"We are very disappointed with the way that events have developed," said Shamanov, who slammed his nation's nameplate on the desk several times in anger.

(Editing by Jason Neely and Anthony Barker)

FILED UNDER: