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Mixed opinions on climate conference outcome

[Kenya] United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening ceremony of the 12th session of the United Nations conference on climate change, Nairobi, Kenya, 15 November 2006. Annan told delegates and reporters that global climate change must take i
Siegfried Modola/IRIN

Delegates to a United Nations conference on climate change concluded their 12-day meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, by agreeing to a review of the protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gases in 2008.

The Kyoto protocol's current commitment runs out in 2012. It obligates parties to the treaty to reduce the emission of harmful gases - mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels - blamed for a rise in global warming of about five percent above the 1990 emission levels.

The conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also adopted a range of decisions intended to mitigate against climate change and help developing countries adapt to the effects of global warming.

"The conference has delivered on its promise to support the needs of developing countries," said Kivutha Kibwana, Kenya's Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment and President of the conference.

Delegates reached agreement on the management of the Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto protocol. Developing countries, particularly in Africa, had a special interest in the fund, which draws on proceeds generated by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The mechanism is designed to support concrete climate-change adaptation activities in poorer countries.

The CDM permits industrialised countries, which have emission targets under Kyoto, to invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus generating tradable emission credits.

However, the British charity, Oxfam, said the conference had yielded little for Africa, the world’s poorest continent, but the region most affected by the effects of climate change, including frequent droughts and floods.

"An overwhelming lack of political ambition turned the UN conference on climate change into a disappointment, with poor countries coming away with little more than vague promises to help their efforts to avoid the worst effects of climate change," Oxfam said in a statement.

"The conference has let Africa and the rest of the developing world down. It has put forward only vague promises to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change, beyond the pledge to set up a fund that has to date only [US] $3 million in its coffers. This urgently needs to be turned into a multi-billion dollar fund if poor countries are to be helped in adapting to climate change," said Antonio Hill, Oxfam’s senior policy adviser.

The World Bank estimates that it would cost between $10 and $30 billion a year to protect development activities from the effects of climate change.

The CDM is considered an innovative way to both help rich countries reduce global emissions at low cost and sustain low carbon development initiatives in developing countries. Of the 400 projects running so far only five are in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the Nairobi conference, parties to Kyoto also adopted rules of procedure for the treaty's compliance committee, making it fully operational.

The committee, with its enforcement and facilitative branches, ensures that the parties to the protocol have a clear accountability regime in meeting their emission reduction targets.

"The 166 parties to the Kyoto protocol heard in Nairobi that global emissions of greenhouse gases have to be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000, in order to avoid dangerous climate change," said Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

"The fact that parties now have a concrete work plan means that they can move ahead with addressing issues fundamental for agreement on future commitments, such as the level of emission reductions that is required and the ways in which they can be achieved," he added.

The next round of negotiations under the Kyoto protocol and talks under the United Nations Climate Change Convention will be held in Bonn, Germany, in May 2007.

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