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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics, Key COP17 Issues, Student Research » Is it Dead?

Is it Dead?

By: Christine Burns ’14

Yesterday, Canada officially dropped out of the Kyoto Protocol. At the beginning of the COP, Canada announced that they would not be prepared to sign on to another commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. They have now officially gone through with that statement. Along with Canada, Japan and Russia, have decided not to continue with phase two of Kyoto. Everyone here at the COP is all up in a flurry about this. I understand that this is not ideal, but it is not unexpected. Canada has been struggling with Kyoto for the past few years, and they have no incentive to continue with Kyoto.  This whole idea of dropping out has left me with a few questions.

The first is: What are the ramifications of Canada and like countries dropping out of Kyoto? They made a commitment to reduce their emissions, and they did not follow through with that commitment. Regardless of whether or not they want to pursue a second commitment period, they should still be held accountable for their previous compliance failures. Right? The Kyoto Protocol was a legally binding agreement, and therefore something should happen when it is not adhered to.

My second question goes back to a previous blog post of mine. Is Kyoto really worth it if only a quarter of emissions are covered? The EU has stated that it will continue on with a second commitment period regardless of whether or not Kyoto makes it out of Durban alive. It is great to hear that countries will still be making mitigation attempts without a legally binding agreement like Kyoto, but I feel that if only a small portion of the countries at the COP feel prepared to join in a second commitment to Kyoto, then it must have a flaw. If this flaw cannot be fixed enough to satisfy a larger portion of high emitting countries, then maybe the negotiations need to turn to an entirely new agreement. I know that starting from scratch is a scary idea, but we need something that turns out major results, AND FAST!

On another note, maybe Canada, Japan, and Russia are not going to continue on with the legally binding commitments of Kyoto, but maybe they will continue mitigation efforts at home. The United States is not a party to the Kyoto Protocol, but it does actually have some legitimate mitigation goals, and if we manage to follow through on them, it would be a significant success. What it comes down to is not what countries say they are going to do, but what they are actually doing. From the time we are young, we are told actions speak louder than words, and I think that is very true in this case. I am not sure what the best approach is. Maybe the world needs a legally binding agreement to enforce actions, but maybe countries will start to action on their own even without a legally binding agreement.

This past weekend China threw a curve ball into the negotiations, when they said that they might consider becoming a party to the Kyoto Protocol.  Should that happen, it opens up a window of opportunities for other countries such as the United States who currently refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol until it includes commitments for high emitting developing countries such as China.  At this point I don’t know what the US will do, but we are in for an interesting end to the week, which could have one of many very different outcomes.

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