Articles Comments

Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics, Key COP17 Issues » Is the USA “blocking” the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol?

Is the USA “blocking” the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol?

By Timothy Damon ’12

Well, that depends on your definition of “blocking”. Since the USA did not join the Kyoto Protocol (KP), it is not (officially) included in the negotiations specifically for the KP. Thus, it is completely possible for the KP to enter a second commitment period even though America may hate the very idea. This means that technically it is wrong to say the USA is “blocking” the KP because it does not have that authority.

Despite this technicality, America is still very much hindering progress. This is occurring because those countries that are under the KP expect the USA to take more action in return for undertaking a second commitment period on themselves – and the USA is simply unwilling to take more action. Consequently, other countries view America as “blocking” the KP, even though what they are really blocking is broader long term progress in the UNFCCC. I have seen the connection between these two separate, but linked issues myself while sitting in sessions of the AWG-LCA. In every one I observed, references were always made to the AWG-KP (the body specifically for discussing the KP). This linkage is also behind the call from some countries to create a new protocol under the LCA to parallel the KP and by covering all other parties.

Ultimately, the question of blocking is more than a debate of semantics. The reality is that America is not contributing enough action on the international stage to pull a fair share of the collective global effort to deal with climate change. Climate Action Network International deemed this lack of ambition enough to qualify the USA for one of their Grand Fossil Awards coming out of COP17. In their presentation just a few minutes ago, they expressed dismay that President Obama has not lived up to his promises of change so passionately delivered in Copenhagen. They hinted that America is on a path to replacing Canada as the repeat winner of Grand Fossil if it continues to hinder progress.

COP17 is nearly over and the outcome remains uncertain, though it will almost certainly disappoint those who desire meaningful global action. Rather than be disappointed, however, those who desire change must instead redouble their efforts to shift American domestic politics onto a path that can support international movement.

Written by

Filed under: Climate Change, Environmental Politics, Key COP17 Issues

Leave a Reply