World climate pact 'to bypass UN'

The Australian
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Graham Lloyd

World climate pact 'to bypass UN'

THE world's major economies are moving towards a climate change deal that will bypass the existing UN framework, says one of the nation's most senior former trade diplomats.

Alan Oxley, former ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, said the US would lead the withdrawal, with negotiations to take place in the Major Economies Forum established by John Howard and former president George W. Bush.

Mr Oxley said recent comments by US President Barack Obama and the looming failure to get Canada, Japan and other major economies to participate in the next round of the Kyoto climate change protocol - despite Australia's agreement to join - were key to the new framework.

Mr Oxley, who now heads World Growth, the free-market, non-government organisation he founded, said the deal had not yet been done but it was inevitable that when the world got serious about climate change, the UN would be sidelined.

"The first thing you will see is the US will convene a meeting," he said. "The body language of the US at Doha is this is the only way in which they will run."

Delegates from 195 countries are meeting in Doha, Qatar, in an attempt to extend the UN's Kyoto protocol for developed nations and progress talks for a legally binding agreement for all countries. Details of the new agreement must be finalised in 2015 for it to take effect from 2020.

The Major Economies Forum was built on a joint US-Australia initiative formed during the Howard government, which brought together Australia, the US, China, India, Japan and South Korea to discuss approaches to managing greenhouse gas emissions. The US expanded the group to include the large European economies.

"It (MEF) was allowed to lapse under the Obama administration, but was recently cited as an option by President Obama," Mr Oxley said. The forum last met in 2010.

"There is talk among climate change delegations in Doha that this is the only model that can work," Mr Oxley said.

President Obama told a press conference following his election victory: "If we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support.

"You can expect that you'll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward."

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told the Doha gathering he had been "encouraged" that Mr Obama had mentioned climate change. He called on the US to "lead the campaign" to limit climate change, but asked it to work together with the UN to deal with the issue.

The Major Economies Forum members account for about 85 per cent of global emissions. The new system would leave the UN group as a forum for discussion and possibly monitoring and reporting of carbon emission reductions.

Mr Oxley said any progress in setting targets for global emissions in 2015 to take effect in 2020 as agreed at the Durban climate change conference last year would occur through the major economies group.

"The first step would be for the US to reassemble that group," Mr Oxley said. "When people really want to get serious results from things they don't use the UN."

Mr Oxley said Kyoto 2 could not work because Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Canada and Russia had all said they were not going to do it. "But none of them have said they are going to do nothing," he said. "By default you fall back to a wider, looser channel which has more flexibility."

Any agreement under the forum would allow emerging and developed countries to "run at a different speed", Mr Oxley said. He said an agreement would follow the Bali Process and allow for aspirational targets and timelines.

"Every few years, the parties would meet to report on progress in meeting those commitments and review the target and timelines," he said. "Over time, commitments to targets and schedules might be buttressed with formal commitments."

Alan Oxley, principal of ITS Global and is a former Australian ambassador to the GATT, predecessor of the WTO.

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