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COP18: Ministers to have last say on ‘hot air’ compromise deal

By John Parnell
RTCC in Doha

Talks in Doha today looked to resolve the so-called ‘hot-air’ issue with proposals from Switzerland and the developing countries set to be merged ahead of the arrival of ministers next week.

Poland exceeded its 6% target compared to 1990 levels, achieving cuts of 30%. Part of this is due to changes in the country’s economy. Critics argue that these emissions reductions – referred to as hot air – would have happened anyway, so they don’t represent an additional effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

Nations such as Russia and Poland want to keep access to emissions allowances that are unused from the first period of the Kyoto Protocol. Critics say that carrying them over into a new phase of Kyoto will give them a headstart on their targets, reducing the action they will undertake to cut their greenhouse gas output.

“There are two proposals and we are working to combine these into one, this is a simpler document to present to ministers,” Artur Runge-Metzger, the EU’s senior negotiator told RTCC. “It’s a very political decision so they will make the final decision.”

The bloc has played down the significance of the dispute with Poland on carbon credits saying that there is no market to buy them and they cannot be used to meet the EU’s own set of emission targets.

However, the issue remains an obstacle to Kyoto progress with Poland’s Environment Minister Marcin Korolec insisting that they are valid credits and an asset belonging to the country.

The suggestions on the table include a cap on how many credits can be carried over and restrictions on what the credits can be used for.

Switzerland’s Ambassador for the Environment Franz Perrez told RTCC that in situations like this, smaller nations like his own, can prove to be more flexible than larger groups and better suited to react to awkward stand-offs.

“A heavyweight takes more time to develop and feed in new ideas,” said Perrez. “So that gives us the very interesting role of being able to influence the international process and the EU internal process by being a bit quicker and more flexible. We can also be more ambitious and harder than the EU because we do not have to reflect on all the different constraints that apply to them.”

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