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Talks tackle post-2012 carbon market fears // Business Green

16Jun 2011, James Murray , BusinessGreen
Diplomats gathered at the latest round of climate change negotiations in Bonn are reportedly attempting to tackle the vexed question of what happens to the global carbon market if, as looks increasingly likely, the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 without a legally-binding replacement having been agreed.

The head of the UN's climate change secretariat, Christiana Figueres, began the latest two-week round of negotiations by warning that without some form of agreement on the future of the Kyoto Protocol there was a risk of a "regulatory gap" post 2012 that could undermine the legal foundations of the emerging global carbon market.

According to Bloomberg reports, a working group in Bonn has been tasked with addressing how to ensure emissions trading continues post-2012 if no agreement is reached, and has published a discussion paper detailing how the market mechanisms could be extended.

The paper recommends that both the Emission Reduction Unit and Assigned Amount Unit carbon credits issued since 2008 and traded by governments as a means of meeting their legally binding Kyoto targets should remain eligible after 2012.

It also recommends the UN-backed carbon offsetting scheme, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), should similarly be allowed to continue post-2012, ensuring that certified emission reduction (CER) credits issued by green projects in developing countries remain valid.

Participants in the carbon market have expressed confidence that the CDM and other global carbon trading mechanisms will continue post-2012, particularly given growing support for proposals to expand the market through new forest-based carbon credit schemes. However, concerns have remained that if the Kyoto process collapses it could remove the legal foundations for these carbon markets and require an alternative treaty to be finalised.

Meanwhile, the wide-ranging Bonn talks have continued this week with observers suggesting some progress has been made over the past few days.

Commentators suggested that negotiations on a number of technical issues, such as classification of greenhouse gases, climate aid and measuring emissions, have continued effectively.

In addition, there were unconfirmed reports that agreement has almost been reached on the need to host an additional round of talks ahead of the Durban Summit at the end of the year, with Panama mooted as the possible location for a meeting in September.

However, the standoff over the future of the Kyoto Protocol has continued to dominate proceedings, with little sign of compromise suggested by either side of the debate.

Elliot Diringer, vice president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change think-tank, told AFP that the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol was now "a plausible scenario" as developing countries continue to insist the legally-binding treaty must be extended and a number of industrialised nations insist they will simply not agree to an extension.

"Parties are facing a choice of limited progress or no progress," Diringer told the news agency. "If they opt for the latter, it will leave the process in a shambles."

Citing comments from Julie-Ann Richards of the Climate Action Network, the Irish Times reported that
there were some signs of progress, with the EU indicating that it could still sign up to a second commitment period for Kyoto as long as developing countries also agree to binding emissions targets.

Richards also said Japan and Canada, both of whom had previously said they would not sign up to an extension of Kyoto, had appeared slightly more conciliatory in recent days after the Alliance of Small Island States suggested that only countries willing to consider extending Kyoto should be allowed to participate in negotiations on its future.

In addition, there were reports developing countries had proposed that those countries that do not sign up to a second commitment period should be excluded from all Kyoto-enabled carbon trading mechanisms such as the CDM and Joint Implementation scheme. As such, countries that refused to support Kyoto but still wished to purchase carbon offsets to help them meet emissions targets, would be forced to reach bilateral agreements with other offsetting nations.

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