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“Kyoto-2”: The lame duck of Western European climate diplomacy

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Lessons learned from the international climate process

For many years, the problem of global climate change – one of the most serious environmental threats of our time – has been making international headlines and has been the subject of high-level political negotiations.

A new milestone will soon appear on the thorny path of the international climate process: the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes into force on December 31, 2020. This document extends the period of the Kyoto Protocol for 2013-2020 (hence its informal name – “Kyoto-2”), and contains a whole set of amendments to the Kyoto regime, including updated quantitative indicators of greenhouse gas emission cuts for a group of developed countries.

Climate activists are likely to mark this “historic” stage in the battle against global warming with new marches, and the leaders of many countries – to renew their calls to “raise the level of ambition” in the name of averting a global climate collapse.

What doesn’t immediately meet the eye here, however, is why “Kyoto-2” is coming into force at the very close of its second commitment period (2013-2020).

Let’s take a look at the real – not retouched – picture of the events of the lengthy negotiating process going under the auspices of the UNFCCC. However, if we take a look at what is going on “behind the scenes,” many things will clear up.  

The first attempt to find the key to solving the problem of global warming was made by the UN member states in the early 1990s, by adopting the abovementioned Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. The general atmosphere of enthusiasm, inspired by the proposed concept of sustainable development, made it possible to come up with the world’s first-ever climate treaty that took a mere 15 months to agree on.

The long and arduous negotiations that followed – from the development of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC (1997) to the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement (2015) – resulted in a series of major successes and very painful failures: the chaotic work of the Hague Conference (2000), which led to a six-month suspension of all activities; the jubilation over the outcome of the Marrakesh meeting (2001), which finalized the agreement on the entire set of rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol; the euphoria in Montreal (2005) following the launch of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the decision to start negotiations on the second period, the collapse of the Copenhagen Conference (2009); the adoption of the Durban Platform for Action (2011), which inspired hope for a positive outcome of the talks on the new climate regime, and the cynical disregard for procedural rules and UN principles displayed during the Doha Conference (2012), which called into question the legitimacy of its decisions, and sealed the fate of “Kyoto-2.”

What has over the years been happening at the UNFCCC negotiation platform, reminds one of the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s timeless Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The situation was further complicated by the West European countries’ essentially dual climate diplomacy purported to spearhead the international campaign to save the Earth’s climate. From the outside, it looks like a sincere desire to find a speedy solution to an acute environmental problem, which, however, hides a clear temptation to use pro-environment rhetoric to achieve economic advantages by changing the global energy balance that would rule out any multivariate national energy strategies, and, secondly, to redirect international cash flows, all the way to limiting investments in projects related to fossil energy sources.

Moreover, we have very often seen far from perfect methods being used to achieve these goals. Some people, for sure, would prefer not to make public little-known examples of this so as not to sally the reputation of the West’s environmental diplomacy. There are multiple examples of this that have piled up over the entire period of negotiations.

The 2000 session was traditionally presided over by a representative of the host country – then the Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment of the Netherlands, Jan Pronk. His thinly-veiled political bias, unwillingness to listen to partners and, in particular, his arrogantly demonstrative refusal to give the floor to the Russian representative at one time forced the Russian delegation to temporarily leave the conference room in protest. The Russian delegation eventually managed to fulfill its tasks during that session. However, the chairman’s arrogant behavior had a very deplorable effect on the overall results of the conference, which failed to achieve a balanced solution and take into account the interests of all participating countries and thus led to its suspension for a period of six months.

It was in The Hague that the EU’s “green aggressiveness,” which reflected so badly on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, was manifested so clearly. Due to the intransigence demonstrated during the conference by the German and French environment ministers, Jurgen Trittin and Dominique Voynet, both representatives of their governments’ “Green” political wing, the European Union blocked the adoption of a US proposal to ensure greater flexibility in the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol by taking into account the potential of the land use sector in absorbing greenhouse emissions.

The participants were stunned by this short-sightedness, as the United States was then the world’s biggest polluter, accounting for about 17 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. It was the conference in The Hague that precipitated America’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. And with the United States out, the coverage of total global emissions in the Kyoto Protocol’s initial commitment period dropped from 47 percent to 30 percent.

Examples of the European Union’s “odd” attitude continued, During the 2001 meeting in Marrakesh, the participants worked well into the night in consultations initiated by British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, who was trying to convince the Russian delegation that the proposed threshold for the allowable offset of the use of the absorptive capacity of forests in fulfilling the obligations under the KP, which differed by just a few units from the earlier agreed indicator for Japan, was a “good deal.” But the truth was that in 2002, the area of ​​forested territories in Japan was about 25 million hectares, compared to 621 million hectares in Russia – almost 25 times more! Margaret Beckett still believed that we should agree on numbers that were virtually similar to the Japanese.

This begs a simple question: “Are you serious? What about math and logic?

Throughout the negotiation period, Western European representatives have never tired of calling – and keep calling now for “raising the level of ambition.” But here, too, we see a clear split of the European Union’s climate consciousness.

In 2005, Belarus expressed a desire to join the club of countries committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and thereby, to increase, though modestly, the Kyoto Protocol’s coverage of global emissions. The participating nations approved changes to the Protocol, making it incumbent on Belarus to reduce its emissions by eight percent. And still, the European Union refused to ratify this. If this is not a case of double standards, then what is?

Therefore, the crushing fiasco of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference came as no surprise at all.

Everything that could have been done wrong, Denmark did as chairman of the conference, starting with the decision to force the members of official delegations to stand in a tens, if not hundreds of meters-long line for security checks along with numerous observers (representatives of NGOs, the business community, and journalists), resulting in the negotiators being an hour or more late to the consultations room, and ending with a complete confusion during the closing stage of the high-profile event.

And this at a time when the heads of state and government of 119 countries had gathered in Copenhagen to adopt a fundamentally new document to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which would give a start to the implementation of a strategy of truly collective climate efforts, which included commitments not only for developed, but also for developing countries.

The stakes were high and political tensions were going through roof. On the night before the closing day of the conference, the heads of a number of states and governments representing major groups of countries, including  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, joined in the talks. It seemed that after a series of exhausting informal discussions, a compromise was finally at hand. But!.. Without waiting for the final official meeting of the conference,  French President Nicolas Sarkozy left the meeting early in the morning and lost no time telling journalists before entering his plane that “the deal has been reached.” The morning papers came out with splashy headlines and triumphant reports about a “historic climate breakthrough.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, who had presided over the conference, was equally in a rush to submit the final document titled “Copenhagen Agreement” for adoption by the conference, without bothering to first hold formal consultations with all its participants.

Many leaders, who had not taken part in the overnight meeting, felt themselves insulted, with Hugo Chavez mincing no words when expressing his indignation. “They are trying to slip something through the crack under the door!” he fumed. The emotional discussion about the violation of the basic UN principles and the lack of transparency continued for a whole 13 hours.  Neither Rasmussen nor UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was able to save the situation. As a result, the Copenhagen Agreement was never signed,  blocked by representatives of a number of developing countries, led by Venezuela.

The fiasco in Copenhagen cost the participants another six years of negotiations, started virtually from scratch, until the Paris Agreement was finally inked in 2015. A whole six years of practical work to tackle the climate problem had thus been wasted.

The events of the Doha Conference (2012) top the list of anti-records in environmental diplomacy when, amid heated discussions of the configuration of “Kyoto-2,” where basic national interests were at stake, the Europeans at the very last moment and without proper coordination with all participating countries added a provision that actually emasculated the so-called emission quotas saved by non-EU countries with transitional economies (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine). This automatically increased by almost three times (!) the burden of obligations for these countries and undermined the integrity of the regime of compliance with the Kyoto Protocol within its first and second periods.

Responding to the request of the Qatari presidency, and trying to rectify the clearly abnormal situation without putting at risk the constructive conclusion of the conference, Russia Belarus and Ukraine came up with a compromise option. Based on the results of urgent informal consultations presided over by the conference chair Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the State of Qatar, the participants worked out an algorithm for their further action, whereby the chairman would submit the Russian-Belarusian-Ukrainian proposal for formal consideration by a plenary session.

And … the chairman did not keep his word.

Almost immediately after opening the final plenary session, he, without raising his head or looking into the hall, proceeded to approve the draft Doha Amendment in its original form. The question on the order of the session, raised by the Russian delegation, was demonstrably ignored, which in itself is a gross violation of the rules of procedure of the UNFCCC, and the package of final documents was allegedly approved by a consensual decision. Nonsense!

But this is not the end of the story! What makes the whole thing even more outrageous, all this did not happen spontaneously, but had apparently been planned in advance – something Norway’s environmental minister Bård Vegar Solhjell, one of the two ministers appointed to head the process of unofficial ministerial consultations, unashamedly admitted later in an article, titled “This is how Kyoto-2 came about.” Here are some quotes from that article in an unofficial translation from Norwegian,  published in the online version of Aftenposten newspaper on December 11, 2012: “Bomb … Russia refuses to surrender … In a brief discussion in the corner, someone says:’ We can do this just like we did in Cancun.’ What does it mean? To put forward a proposal [the draft of the entire final document] and ignore the protests that we know will come from Russia …”

“Backstage” diplomacy”…  Compared to this, the “highly likely”-style tricks that the Western Europeans are playing today are no longer surprising.

Our response was honest, open and legally substantiated. In June 2013, during a session of the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC, Russia, with the active support of the Belarusian and Ukrainian delegations, proposed adding to the agenda of the Conference of the Parties a new item – “Decision-making within the UNFCCC process” to serve as a barrier to manipulation and violation of the generally recognized legal norms and UN principles. Do you think the European Union supported us? No, for the most part it kept silent.

It took us two weeks of grueling procedural discussions to achieve this goal, but it was worth the effort. The inclusion of this item on the agenda of the UNFCCC governing body was an important contribution to the prevention of legal and political nihilism within the international climate process.

But what was the outcome of “Kyoto-2” accord? Well, just like the popular Russian saying goes, “What you reap is what you sow”…

The natural reaction from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine to the gross disregard for the UN procedures and principles at the Doha conference resulted in their refusal to ratify the Doha Amendment (as for Russia, long before Doha, we officially announced that we were not going to assume obligations under “Kyoto-2,” due to its extremely limited value for easing anthropogenic pressure on the climate). New Zealand and Japan refused to commit themselves to reducing emissions in the framework of “Kyoto-2.” Such major emitters of greenhouse gases as the United States and Canada remain outside the Kyoto regime. As a result, compared to the first period of the Kyoto Protocol, the coverage of global emissions fell by another four times – from 30 percent to 7.6 percent. Is it possible to use it as an instrument of tackling the problem of global climate change?

Most notably, after Doha, the European Union refused to ratify the Doha Amendment for a whole five years, apparently reflecting on its position as the only major player bound to cut emissions in keeping with “Kyoto-2,” and even to provide financial assistance for climate goals to developing countries.

In fact, “Kyoto-2” only put off for a whole eight years the implementation of collective international legal measures to solve the problem of climate change. It will fade into oblivion after briefly appearing to the world in the guise of a full-fledged document: it officially takes effect on December 31, 2020, only to expire that very same day. What a sad and ironic coincidence!

Now all hopes are pinned on the Paris Agreement. However, the international community should learn serious lessons from the almost 30-year history of the climate process, from all its twists and turns and “crooked mirror” diplomacy, so that further efforts to combat global climate change are truly comprehensive, balanced, rest on a solid foundation of laws and the basic principles of the UN, thus making a genuine, not fictitious, contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If this is not done, then the Paris Climate Agreement, which took years of painstaking diplomatic effort to come by, may repeat the sad fate of “Kyoto-2.”

From our partner International Affairs

Minister-counsellor of the Russian Embassy in the Kingdom of Thailand, Russia’s deputy permanent representative at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Diplomacy

Soft Power Dynamics in Middle Eastern Conflict

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The Middle East is synonymous with eternal conflict as being at the cross-point between Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The paper intends to understand how the power could be derived from the cultural roots in a world filled with pre-existing biases based on religious values, nationality, and interpretation of history.

Palestine receives strong international support through social media by sharing its pain and grievances increasing its soft power that hampers Israel’s international relations. A new question emerges can the soft power paradigm be used to resolve the problem?  

The roots of the Middle Eastern problem are driven by historical-religious literature which shows the Middle East to be the historic homeland of Jews and they wanted to get back to their original homeland due to two-millennium long suppression that finally ended up as the holocaust.

Israel continues to emphasize and promote stories related to Second World War which help them gain the legitimacy to exist as a state. It is also remarked that the holocaust may have been a decisive condition for the creation of a Jewish state but this action would have occurred sooner or later.

One of the biggest strengths for Israel and its legitimacy comes from the Biblical literature which has some historical stories in it and mentions Israel and Judah in the Middle East providing American Christian Support which seems to be dropping as a result Israel needs to work on its soft power.

A similar strength can be found in Quran for Israeli as Surah Al-Ma’idah in Chapter 5 verse 12 states about the Children of Israel and verse 21 explains that they are “destined to enter and not to turn back else they will become the loser.” These verses motivate Israeli for their cause which raises an interesting phenomenon that some pro-Israeli media would use Quranic verses to gain legitimacy.

History needs to be studied to understand how and where the differences between Jews and Muslims started. Originally there was a peaceful relation between Jews and Muslims but Jews refuse to acknowledge Muhammad a non-Jew as one of the prophets of God which caused the relationship between Jews and Muslims to deplete.

Finally, Banu Qurayza a Jewish community allied with Qurashites against Prophet Muhammad that caused Medina to suffer a war-built hatred towards Judaism.

However, even after looking at the differences Muslims, Christians, and Jews are Abrahamic religions maintaining their base Judaic-monotheistic tradition as both Roman Catholics and Arab previously had polytheistic culture and Israel has indirectly benefitted from this historical fact.

Israel could benefit from various religions by showing show respect to the leaders of Abrahamic religions and even maintain an apologetic attitude on behalf of some of the members of the Jewish community which may have conducted villainous actions as per some stories based on other religious doctrines.

The tower of one’s ego can prohibit supporting the national interest which could only be achieved by becoming softer to gain soft power.

It is argued that the ancient Philistine is related to present-day Palestine. Palestine as a result gets associated with David and Goliath or Samson’s struggle with Philistine. However, the term Palestine is more complicated which had developed in the period.

There are also claims that the Syria Palaestina was constructed as a punishment for Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE while the name Palaestina given to the region seems to be older than Bar Kochba Revolt and even older than the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The image of the Israel and Palestine conflict is connected towards mythical combat between David and Goliath. David was an inexperienced youth who later became king of Israel and defeated a giant from ancient Philistine called Goliath.

Some actors who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have also connected Palestine with David who was weak at the beginning of the story while they perceive Israel as an unjust giant and the toughest fighter in the region.

The Middle Eastern conflict goes beyond religion and history as it has multiple dimensions due to multiple crimes against humanity causing people to be refugees that inflict social, political, and economic damages.

A medium to obtain soft power is by resolving the humanitarian crisis and Israel being perceived as a perpetrator tampered with its national image.

Israel as an economically advanced country with large spending power can establish economic institutions to raise funds in providing education, training, and employment to victims of that conflict regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, or political views who have been scattered around the world which would help Israel gain legitimacy.

The economic recovery of the war victims can minimize some damage enforced upon the national image but there is a strong opinion that the Palestinian community lacks legal rights as being in Israeli jurisdiction. So, political rights might have to be secured to the Palestinians while they have to live in Israel for Israel to create a positive national image.  

The Israeli government also create an option for the Palestinian community to have the right to return, granting them protection in Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while promoting Arab Israeli politicians, and can even reflect how they have shaped the Israeli government in the international arena to build Israel’s soft power.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the social affairs which are closely tied to the soft power paradigm.

There is a clear fear that the Jews are eclipsing the social identity of the Palestinian people but in reality, they are closely linked as Arabic language and Hebrew are Semitic languages, their scripts have common Aramaic ancestry, and Halaal and Kosher dietary cultures are also similar.

There should be an effort to study the similarities to build unity and to study unique qualities as to appreciate one another’s differences. Israel could also create Cultural Relations Centers around the world that promote both Jewish and Palestinian language, culture, and cuisine to create respect and solidarity. 

There can also be the production of television programs, movies, digital applications which could allow people to understand the Middle Eastern community.

Tel Aviv is the center for the development of many technological advancements and carries great potential to build creative applications and visual storytelling that could help spread awareness about the Middle East.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority could request the Israeli government to provide scholarships in various Israeli Universities which could enhance their credential for making effort to create a peaceful world as well as proposing exchange programs by inviting Israeli students to visit regular Palestinian colleges and working spaces decreasing bitterness.

The Palestinian Authority could also pursue Israeli investment in core-Palestinian settlements that could create employment as well as mutual dependence allowing Palestine to grow with a greater bargaining power while maintaining a symbiotic relationship.

Culture, history, and institutions can be combined to create harmony. A key aspect to gain soft power and legitimacy is by becoming softer by showing respect to the opponents while appreciating and accepting others’ viewpoints.

Therefore, the study of religion, history has to be conducted from a neutral perspective that can be trusted by all international actors and could serve as a uniting factor while maintaining an apologetic attitude towards historic mistakes. There needs to be an effort to provide economic and political compensation for the victims which have caused notoriety in the international arena and finally the culture of the two competing communities needs to be celebrated through cultural institutions to build trust and harmony.

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Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva

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19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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