MUMBAI - A new and broader climate deal is out of reach for now and instead nations need to focus on how to replace the ailing Kyoto Protocol before 2020, Britain's minister of state for energy and climate change said on Monday.
The view is recognition that agreement on a pact that commits all major greenhouse gas polluters to curbing the growth in planet-warming emissions is slipping further away, in part because of sluggish economic growth and a mounting debt crisis.
Negotiators from nearly 200 nations meet from Nov 28 to Dec 9 in Durban, South Africa, for an annual summit on climate change. Previous talks have failed to secure a successor to Kyoto — the main global accord on tackling climate change.
Expectations for Durban are low, even as global greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, increasing the likelihood the world will miss a chance to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency says.
"The reality is, we're not going to be able to agree a global, binding treaty at Durban," Gregory Barker told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Mumbai. "The reality is, it's unlikely we will be able to do that next year either, and probably not the year after that."
"But what we should do is start agreeing that is where we need to get to, and put in place a framework that allows us to get there in a realistic timetable," he added.
"We need a global treaty before the end of the decade."
The International Energy Agency said last week mankind's greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas, as well as deforestation, hit a record last year.
It said the world might not be able to limit global temperature rise to safe levels if new international climate action is not taken by 2017, given the large number of fossil fuel power plants and factories being built.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. It subjects 37 richer countries, known as "Annex 1" countries, to legally binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions during its 2008-12 first commitment period.
The United States has not ratified the treaty, which aims to reduce the risk of greater extremes of weather, rising sea levels and crop failures.
Developing countries have since become major emitters, with China overtaking the United States to become the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. India is now number three.
Yet poorer nations still want the Kyoto Protocol to be extended into a second period with new targets for rich nations. But wealthier nations say a broader pact is needed to include all the big polluters. The opposing views have virtually deadlocked the talks.
Russia, Japan and Canada have said they will not sign up for a second commitment period unless the biggest emitters do, too.
"We are certainly open to the renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. But if we are going to have a (second period), we will need to see movement toward a larger solution," said Barker.
"We won't get a global treaty unless all of the key players are engaged," he said.
(Editing by David Fogarty)