Why the walkout?

Cross-posted on the Huffington Post

Media has been reporting all day on a walkout by developing countries that have sent the whole negotiations into disarray. These countries are worried that the Kyoto protocol will be thrown into the compost bin, as developed countries don’t want to agree on providing the financing or technology for a new scheme.

One Canadian official observer at the climate talks in Copenhagen explained why talks suspended on Monday.

“It was not a physical walkout,” says Caroline Lee, who is attending the talks as a delegate from Simon Fraser University outside Vancouver. “The African group and G77 are boycotting the negotiations today because they believe that the talks are getting biased towards becoming a single track – which means the Kyoto protocol is killed, and one treaty will cover all countries.”

While one treaty may sound like a neat idea, it could be problematic for developing nations since it lets richer countries off the hook if they break their Kyoto commitments. Developing countries wouldl also need to make their emissions cuts faster than they would under Kyoto.

“A single treaty also makes it more likely for developing nations to be forced to make more ambitious reductions,” Lee says. “It will make it more difficult to distinguish between industrialized and non-industrialized nations.”

Lee, who is writing her thesis on creating economic models based on climate legislation (think: what would the world economy look like if every country had a carbon tax), wants the treaty that comes out of Copenhagen to have two tracks–which is what was originally intended when the U.N. talks kicked off last Monday.

“There should be a clear distinction – where industrialized nations take on legally-binding ambitious commitments, while developing nations take on less ambitious ones,” Lee says. –Liana B. Baker

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