Climate talks end in deal

The UN climate talks in Nairobi have ended with agreement reached on all outstanding matters.

The most difficult issue, a review of the Kyoto Protocol, was settled to the advantage of developing countries.

There is no deal on another round of mandatory cuts in emissions to follow the Kyoto Protocol, and no firm timetable for negotiating cuts.

Environment and development groups say the measures presented here do not match the scale of the problem.

“It’s very clear from the Stern Review, from the latest scientific information, from the impacts we’re already seeing in places like Kenya, that we need very rapid cuts in carbon emissions, and we need the negotiations to start next year and finish at the latest in 2008,” said Andrew Pendleton, climate analyst with the charity Christian Aid.

The agreement here sets a tentative date for beginning negotiations, and no timeframe for concluding them.

“From Christian Aid’s point of view that’s simply not good enough, and we need some heads to be knocked together by somebody, but I don’t know who that is,” Mr Pendleton lamented.

The theme was echoed by other campaign groups.

“Ministers are simply not reflecting the urgency which is being felt in the real world,” said Catherine Pearce, international climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth UK. “We are still not seeing the bold leadership which is needed here.”

Outstanding review

The most important of the issues outstanding as the talks entered their final phase concerned the review of the Kyoto Protocol.

The protocol states that it should be reviewed at this stage, with many of its measures open to discussion.

A number of developing countries viewed this with suspicion, believing that it might open the door to demands that they consider binding cuts in emissions, possibly impacting economic development.

They asked for, and eventually got, a minimal review.

The European Union, with the support of a number of other nations, wanted a root and branch examination of emission targets and all the other components of the protocol.

The plan now is for such a review to take place in 2008.

To the concern of activists, the conference approved a proposal from Belarus that it be allowed to join the Kyoto Protocol in a way that could see it able to sell surplus emissions.

Its emissions declined sharply after the reference date of 1990 with the decline of Soviet bloc industry, and environment groups say Belarus will be able to make money from this with no resultant drop in global greenhouse gas emissions.

A proposal to allow Clean Development Mechanism funds to be used for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects was deferred because the technology is not yet mature.

African benefit

UK Environment Secretary David Milliband was upbeat about the conclusions, citing decisions to allocate more resources to Africa for clean technology and for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

However, he acknowledged there was a large gap between the emissions cuts which science suggests are necessary, and the level of political commitment to making those cuts.

“I come away from this conference with two senses: one, the world community can make progress when it puts its mind to it, but two, my goodness we really need to up the momentum, we need to increase the acceleration,” he told BBC News.

“And for that, you don’t just need environment ministers – you need prime ministers, finance ministers, and foreign secretaries to put themselves behind this global drive.”

Mr Milliband acknowledged that even alongside the welter of other international initiatives on climate, the UN process is especially important because it is the only one which can demand binding cuts in emissions.

The next round of talks will be in Bali next December.