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Fate of Kyoto Protocol should be resolved

United Nations: Nations participating in the next United Nations climate conference in South Africa should resolve the future of the Kyoto Protocol, UN climate chief Christina Figueres has said.

"Governments meeting in Durban must resolve the remaining issues over the future of the Kyoto Protocol," Figueres said in Tokyo. "In this context, we need to keep in mind that the Kyoto Protocol remains the only working, binding international model to reduce emissions."   

Figueres said nations have an "urgent task" to decide how to take forward the protocol`s unique benefits of "transparency, certainty, compliance in handling national emission targets, and common but differentiated."

During the climate conference in Cancun in December, Japan had said it was backing out of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only legally binding instrument that imposes binding cuts on industrialised countries.

Japan and European Union, however, have pointed out the Kyoto Protocol only covers 27 per cent of carbon emissions and does not include the largest emitters of greenhouse gases – US and China.

India and China insist that while they will take on voluntary domestic measures to reduce their carbon emissions, it is the responsibility of the developed nations to accept legally binding commitments.

Praising Japan for having subscribed to a minus 25 per cent emission reduction goal by 2020 (over 1990 levels), Figueres pointed out that Japan`s "national well-being" depends on sustainable economy free of climate disaster.

"I am therefore confident that Japan will push for successively stronger international climate agreements to make sure that this happens," she said on Monday.

Three months after the Cancun Agreements were negotiated in Mexico, Figueres reminded governments that action needed to be taken on the ground. "Governments must now implement quickly what they agreed in Cancun and take the next big climate step this year in Durban," she said.   

The set of decisions adopted in December included broad agreement on technology sharing mechanism that will ensure that poor and vulnerable countries are able to access green technologies easily and in a cost-effective manner.

However, many of the contentious issues were bypassed to reach compromises in Cancun. For instance, no number have been given for further emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol and no express commitment has been given to continue the 1997 agreement after it expires in 2012.

The UN climate chief noted that the promises to reduce or limit emissions so far equals only 60 per cent of what the scientific community says is required by 2020 for the world to stay below 2 degrees, and that emissions need to peak by 2015 to avoid the agreed temperature goal slipping out of reach.

Some groups said that it is a "weak" text that will eventually lead to the death of Kyoto Protocol. Others said that it is a workable "compromise" for the moment.

A "Green Fund" has also been set up that is expected to mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020, which will be given to developing countries for adaptation and mitigation purposes. How these technology and finance mechanisms will function still need to be worked out.

"By Durban, the poor and vulnerable of the world need to see real change has happened, and the businessmen, scientists and engineers who launch real solutions on the ground need to see a new era of international climate action has truly begun," said Figueres.

"And in Durban, governments need to take the next step to increase their ambition to reduce global emissions together," she added.

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