COP17 – negotiating blocs explained

Submitted by: Jonathan Ramayia, Monday, December 5, 2011

The Seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP17) is now in the thick of things. The second week is where the nitty-gritty is discussed. Essentially, COP17 involves a series of negotiations, and one of the main points of negotiations in Durban will be the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol which ends at the end of next year.  The article provides a very basic overview of the different perspectives from the different blocs and major nations. 


The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty, obliges rich countries by law to reduce their carbon emissions expires at the end of 2012 so many have touted the Durban negotiations as the last ditch effort to save the Kyoto Protocol.

With only 5 days left until the end of COP17 indications show that the Kyoto Protocol will most likely not be renewed in Durban.  Each bloc has a different stance, and understanding these different perspectives of each country will be useful in understanding the difficult nature of getting an agreement in place:

Japan: reports have shown that Japan, the country where Kyoto Protocol was first developed, have little interest in signing up for a second round of commitments and are calling for developing countries to take on more of the burden of reducing emissions.

Canada: the Canadian government suffered a backlash last week when word spread that they were pulling out of Kyoto by the end of the year (i.e. before the Protocol expired).

Russia: the largest country in the world has shown almost no interest in getting a deal signed, many have attributed this to the fact that shipping lanes have opened up in the Russian Arctic which promises to provide an economic boost for the country.

United States: the global superpower originally signed the Kyoto Protocol but did not ratify it, and was the only major country in the developed world to have not committed to a reduction in GHGs. The Obama administration has shown signs that they are willing to commit to some reduction targets but national politics and a presidential election next year makes it difficult for the Democrats to get this passed, especially in light of the apparent climate change denialism within US Congress.

India and China: these countries represent two of the world’s top 5 carbon emitters and are pushing for the developed world to extend the Kyoto Protocol. Both countries are representative of the developing world who have historically contributed little to carbon emissions and argue that countries like Britain and the US are largely responsible for climate change. India has recently stated that they will not agree to any form of reduction if the US does not do so as well.

European Union: The EU says it has stated that it will agree to more reductions but that other countries should also do so, in particular the EU would like the US to agree to reduction targets.

Small island states: these are mainly low-lying maritime nations, including countries like Maldives who are known collectively as the Alliance of Small Island States. They have been the most vocal about getting the world’s biggest economies to agree to reduction targets knowing full well that parts of their countries could be underwater within the next few decades.

Africa and the least developed countries: Africa is set to be the most affected region in the world by climate change due to floods, drought, disease and food insecurity in particular. Africa argues that they have not contributed to climate change and wants to see the developed world supply them with finance to help them deal with the impacts of the above.

South Africa: South Africa finds itself in a tricky position as it is part of the African bloc but also one of the worst carbon emitters and part of the BRIC group of countries (emerging economies). Much scrutiny will fall on the country who will aim to play negotiator between all the blocs.

Jonathan Ramayia