Articles Comments

Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » Should we let KP RIP?

Should we let KP RIP?

by Dani Thompson

There is a reason UNFCCCs conference of parties are referred to as “the negotiations”.

“All they do is negotiate. Where is the action?” Questions Rully Prayoga, a Indonesian Chapter representative who I interviewed this morning. After spending over a week at the UNFCCCs 17th COP, I have to agree with him. If there is one over-arching feeling from NGOs which I can relay to our readers outside of Durban– it is a sense of frustration. This frustration comes from the slow-moving progress of “the negotiations” and an ever-growing realization that agreement to aid the end or slowing of climate change on a global level may not be possible.

Perhaps the UNFCCC is simply not the best forum to realize mitigation of green house gases.

As the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (The legally binding agreement signed by many of the world’s countries which sets targets for GHG emissions reductions…NOT signed by the US) comes to an end in 2012, one of the major issues being discussed in Durban is the need of a second commitment period of the agreements which would carry on to 2020. Conversations and debates relating to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) are constantly in the air of the conference. While there are just about as many opinions as there are people to ask about it, YOUNGO has forcefully brought a pro-KP message  to the attendees of COP17 with their “I Heart KP” campaign. The official opinion of YOUNGO on the renewal of KP is explained in detail in their Expectations for COP17 document. It states:

“Voluntary pledge and review has not delivered significant progress. Strong ambitions need strong foundation and trust between Parties. The main outcome of COP17 should be to ensure that there is no gap between Kyoto Protocol commitment periods, providing a clear pathway for transition…with a legally binding framework, with technical and financial support from Annex 1 countries.”

Of course, if a legally binding target for lowering GHG emissions could be agreed upon, this would be the most attractive and certain way for us to mitigate climate change. However, at the COP it  is visibly an impossibility for every nation in the world to come to a consensus on what reasonable and feasible targets are or should be. Yes, we have the first installment of the Kyoto Protocol which, to be fair, has had success in lowering GHG emissions for some of the countries who signed on. But again, as we draw to the close of the first commitment period of KP, the disappointing reality is that most countries have  failed to reach their targets set by the KP. So my question is this:

Why should we push for KP2 when the first KP did not deliver?

I believe that to some the symbolism of the Kyoto Protocol means more than the actual text of the agreement. KP has problems. In fact,  I dare you to google search it and find one person (a reliable source…) who believes that it is a perfect agreement. We need to start from scratch. Maybe that means a legally binding agreement globally, maybe it doesn’t….only one trait will matter in the end and that is if the agreement DELIVERS. Kyoto got us part of the way, and it was a positive step in the mitigation of GHGs, but we can do better. We NEED to do better. Time is running out and perhaps the best way to move forward is to let the Kyoto Protocol Rest in Peace.


Rully, the rep, sent me on my way with a little anecdotal metaphor for the negotiations. He told me that the conference of parties was like an argument inside a taxi cab. Two people are arguing about where they want to go, yelling and screaming at each other inside the car. The meter is running. They get so upset that they step outside and fight, leaving each other black and blue. The meter continues to run. Finally, they come to an agreement, but by the time they get back into the taxi cab (both a bit injured) they find that they can not afford to take the ride. They wasted their money and their effort for no reason.

In this example, I think of the KP as the cab itself. It is useless unless there is a driver and a destination. To take it a step further, who says the two people need to take a cab to where they are going? Maybe once they decide on a destination, they will realize that all along it made more sense to walk.

Written by

I think GIS is ok.

Filed under: Climate Change · Tags: , , , ,

One Response to "Should we let KP RIP?"

  1. Michael Heiman says:

    There was an interesting article in the Financial Times recently re. China’s consideration of implementing a cap-and-trade-type program among its major industries, though strictly outside of any commitment under Kyoto and with our understanding (not theirs) that enforcement will be difficult given a corrupt local and regional political system. Nonetheless, with a few US states moving ahead on their own in the US (think of California or the North East REGGI program), future progress may well depend on bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements among the major players (especially the 800-pound US and Chinese guerillas), rather than getting 150+ independent nations to agree on what to have for dinner let a lone anything as complicated as an emissions agreement–well, in public (as you are finding out).

    Another article (today) has China and Brazil warning of the threat to the 20-billion-dollar UN-backed carbon offset market should Kyoto not be extended–not surprising considering how they have profited handsomely from that market in the past (especially China). While we should be skeptical of commodification of the commons (especially the atmosphere) as the right to pollute the commons is sold off and billions made in windfall profits, this does suggest that there are very powerful players-both sellers (China, Brazil) and buyers, represented by the carbon trading brokers at the world’s leading banks, who might provide somewhat perverse support for renegotiation-though likely not enough.

    As they say, diversity is the spice of life. I gather you are all having a very diverse experience, seasoning your education with lots of spices that you are picking up while abroad.

Leave a Reply