Contrary to popular belief, the Kyoto Protocol is not dead. The 2012 Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol extends its life as it includes the second commitment period (2012-2020) for 37 industrialised countries which took similar legally-binding commitments during the first commitment period (2008-2012).
The legally binding obligations of the 37 industrialised countries under the second commitment period are mainly related to their emission reductions and financing for the developing countries for technology transfer. Many consider the Doha Amendment as the second chance for the developed countries to demonstrate their moral and legal commitments as well as climate justice which they were unable to do in the first commitment period.
And here starts the near collapse of climate-trust between developed and developing countries that the Paris Climate agreement was able to generate with finesse in 2015.
It is sparsely known outside the climate community that the Doha Amendment has not entered into force because only 84 countries have ratified it against the 144 required. Most of the industrialised countries which are required to take binding commitment have not ratified it. Significantly, countries like Japan, New Zealand and Russia have participated in Kyoto's first commitment period but have not taken on new targets in the second commitment period.
Developing countries at the Conference of the Parties-23 (COP-23) in Bonn, as the first week's talks are nearing an end, want the issue of commitment under the second period of the Kyoto Protocol to be on the agenda, mainly to discuss the pre-2020 commitment.
Industrialised countries are refusing to discuss it as there is not enough time in Bonn for this and there is an urgent need to finalise the rules to operationalise the Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016.
The urgency of discussing pre-2020 commitments by 37 developed countries and finalising the rule book for the Paris Agreement by 2020, as per agreed time table, are both equally urgent, the developing countries argue.
"You cannot run away from the agreement that you signed two decades back in Kyoto, just because there is a new agreement in Paris" is the strong and harsh message that developing countries are sending to the industrialised countries in Bonn, an African delegate said.
"Developed countries need to be reminded that the Kyoto Protocol is alive. Unfortunately, the developed countries have dispatched it to ICU in Bonn, mainly because they are refusing to meet their commitments of technology and finance of $100 billion per year under the extended period of Kyoto agreement," said a representative of Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) that include, interestingly, India, China and Iran.
While the Antarctica ice continues to melt and the continental crevices there keep widening, the drama is unfolding in Bonn with a story-line of melting commitments and widening the fault lines in negotiations. As storms and hurricanes devastate life on small island countries, the Bonn talks are entering the eye of the negotiating storm.
The US, which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and which has declared its intention to exit the Paris Agreement, is joining this storm by taking active part in the Bonn negotiations and building a firewall to prevent any discussion on pre-2020 action. In this, it is joined by the European Union and many others.
"The US tactic seems to be entry into deal-maker President (Donald) Trump's wish to renegotiate the Paris Agreement," one negotiating diplomat confided.
Developing countries have huddled together and have said the world needs urgent action and pre-2020 commitments are critical to meeting the aim of the Paris Agreement to "hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change".
The UN Environment emission gap report of 2017 says that the present Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), including that of the US, would take the world rise in temperature to 3 deg C by 2100. That would be the dark and unknown zone of disaster.
More than the emission gap, there is a trust gap between developed and developing countries that would decide the level of temperature rise.
# Rajendra Shende is Chairman, TERRE Policy Centre, a former Director UNEP and and IIT alumnus. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org