sabato 4 febbraio 2012

The Kyoto Protocol: Part II

"Kyoto - Japan" di -Taro51- via Flickr

This is not the last birthday of the Kyoto Protocol (February 16). It should be if countries that have ratified the treaty will not do what they promised at the last Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011.

Although most of the media spent a lot of words to describe failures and uncertainty, what delegates decided is clear: Kyoto will have a second commitment period for parties included in Annex I.

Not every single country that agreed to reduce its overall emissions of six greenhouse gases between 2008-2012 (first commitment period) is well-disposed to take part in the second round. That’s the real news. The front is divided between those who understand the importance of avoiding a legal vacuum and those that ask for the involvement of emerging countries that today are responsible of most of the global CO2 emissions.

The outcome of the COP 17, achieved after a long marathon, states that developed countries “aim to ensure the aggregate emissions of greenhouse gases reduction by at least 25-40% below 1990 by 2020”. To do so they have to submit information on their QELROs (Quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives) by May 1, 2012. It will be the COP 18, which will be held in Qatar later this year, to determine the effective targets. The second commitment period shall begin on January 1, 2013 and end either on December 31, 2017 or 2020, as requested by some delegates.

At the same time the Durban Conference set out the steps to be followed for a new climate deal that would have legal force for both developed and developing countries. The agreement needs to be reached by 2015, and comes into effect from 2020. That’s why European Union, Brazil and other countries asked to standardize the output stage of the Kyoto Protocol with the inlet of the new treaty.

The 27 members of the EU have accepted this schedule with enthusiasm. The European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said several times that the second commitment period is a fundamental step towards the adoption of a text involving all parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). On the European side there are Australia, Switzerland and Norway. On the opposite Canada, Russia and Japan, which have branded the Protocol as “useless” without the commitment of those countries that nowadays are responsible of most of the emissions: China, India, Brazil, not to mention the United States, which never ratified Kyoto.

This is how things stand fifteen years after the third Conference of the Parties, the one that made an unknown Japanese city famous all over the world. Quoted, shouted, typed, praised and criticized, Kyoto entered by force in each classroom, conference hall or editorial office involved in the climate issue. Happy birthday Kyoto and many more to come.

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