ONGOING DEBATE: The UN Climate Change Conference opens in Doha on November 26 (XINHUA/AFP)
To continue or die out? That's the question facing the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, as the first phase of the protocol will come to an end on December 31.
The fate of the 15-year-old Kyoto Protocol will be decided by participating governments at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.
Formally known as the 18th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP18/CMP8), the conference started on November 26 and is scheduled to conclude on December 7.
At the opening ceremony, newly elected President of the COP18/CMP8 Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Chairman of Qatar's Administrative Control and Transparency Authority, urged the conference to stick to established timetables and speedily implement already agreed-upon decisions.
The Doha conference should prioritize the implementation of previous consensus, which includes completing negotiations on the 2007 Bali Action Plan, adopting and implementing a legally binding second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and offering support to developing countries in terms of funding, technology transfer and capacity building, said Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, at a conference unveiling a document titled China's Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change 2012 in Beijing on November 21.
The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol appeared to have been settled at the Durban conference last year, but issues related to its implementation will be heatedly discussed at the Doha conference, said Su Wei, China's chief climate change negotiator, in a Doha media briefing.
According to a UN press release, key issues under the Kyoto Protocol that must be decided include: the length of the second commitment period and how to convert targets into so-called "quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives"—the units of binding reduction commitments, as well as how to carry over unused emission credits of economies in transition into the second phase of the protocol.
It will be very difficult to set a mechanism aiming to raise emission reduction targets for developed countries in the next few years, Su said.
At the Doha conference, governments also need to decide which elements of the Bali Action Plan have been achieved, what additional decisions can be taken and which elements may need to be further addressed.
Unresolved issues include how to apply the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," how to manage intellectual property rights in the transfer of technology, and how to avoid setting trade barriers in the name of coping with climate change, said Su.
Negotiations on the Durban Platform will spark a fierce debate. Last year in Durban, governments decided to reach a universal climate change agreement covering all countries from 2020, to be adopted by 2015. This was a compromise coming out of the extended hours of debate at the Durban conference.
Some countries have moved away from the Bali Action Plan negotiations and switched their focus to the Durban Platform, which started this year, according to the Climate Change Green Paper 2012 released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on November 21.
Consensus on some basic concepts and principles of the Durban Platform should be reached at the Doha conference, Su said.