Yvo de Boer (left) and Yannick Jadot

Yvo de Boer (left) and Yannick Jadot

Image by Greens Climate

Firstly, it was "highly unlikely" that US President Barack Obama would be able to show leadership on climate change for the next five years.

Even if he won a second term, his own party would tell him "not to mess things up for us" by getting involved with climate issues.

Lack of US action, said de Boer, would in turn mean less pressure on China and India to accept legal commitments to cut emissions. Without such commitments, the US would not act.

Secondly, Europe was unlikely to take a leadership role at present.

De Boer, who is now with accountancy firm KPMG, said talks were also bedevilled by developing countries' perception that industrialised countries had repeatedly broken their promises.

In addition, he claimed, "If you were able to look deep into people's hearts and ask, Do you believe in 'green growth'?, very few would say 'Yes'. Many countries were sceptical."

And "hanging like a dark cloud over the negotiations" was the issue of the Kyoto Protocol. Industrialised countries were not committed to it, and developing countries were not prepared to put it aside.

Although the "Copenhagen Accord" that emerged in the closing hours of the talks in Denmark in 2009 had the potential to move the negotiations along, said de Boer, the Kyoto blockage might stop developing countries participating.

Some agreement on funds for developing countries at the next conference - in Durban, South Africa, in  November - might re-kindle developing country interest in the UN negotiating process, but de Boer said that the committee responsible for developing the Green Climate Fund was not proceeding well: its most recent meeting had been dominated by a wrangle on membership.

De Boer said that politicians would not be willing to publicly turn their backs on the UN negotiating process, so the question was whether the process could be energised.

One possible approach was being tried by Norway, which was taking forward the discussions on forests [some estimates say deforestation accounts for about 20 per cent of global warming emissions] while emphasising that the talks were not a threat to the UN process.

De Boer told the London meeting, organised by the All Party Group on Climate Change, that political answers were needed immediately to two questions:

  • Are world leaders working for a legally binding instrument on emissions cuts?: if the answer was yes, clarity would be needed on what that meant for individual countries
  • Are we going to continue with the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding climate agreement?