Kill Kyoto or Kyoto II Our Only Hope?

franke-polar-sml.jpg“We don’t have time to start over… global carbon emissions have to peak in 2015 …”Jonathan Pershing, World Resources Institute

By Stephen Leahy

Nov 21 (IPS) – Total greenhouse gas emissions of 40 industrialised countries rose to a near all-time high in 2005, but the Kyoto Protocol will still exceed its reduction targets, a United Nations agency said two weeks before political leaders meet in Bali, Indonesia to begin negotiations on a new and more aggressive treaty to battle climate change.

“Greenhouse-gas emissions between 1990 and 2000 went down, but then between 2000 and 2005 they increased again, by 2.6 percent,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol are expected to achieve reductions of 11 percent compared to 1990 by 2012 if their policies deliver the promised reductions, the UNFCCC report said — a significant achievement and surpassing the Kyoto Protocol target of five percent.

“For the totality of Kyoto signatory countries, reductions of 15 percent are feasible should additional policies be planned and implemented,” de Boer said.

“But we should not hide the fact that there is continuing greenhouse gas emissions growth on the part of several countries and that they must do more to reign in their emissions,” he said at a press conference in Bonn, Germany Tuesday.

While it looks like Kyoto is a great success, much of the total emissions reduction is due to the economic collapse of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. Countries such as Russia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary are 25 to 50 percent below their sky-high carbon-spewing industrial days of 1990. Emissions in many of these are rising, contributing to the near-record emissions of 2005.

Germany is 19 percent below its 1990 level, in large part due to the economic collapse of the former East German Republic. Britain is 15 percent below 1990, and Denmark and Sweden, at about eight percent below, are the few successes, an in-depth look at the report reveals.

Southern European countries fighting prolonged heat waves and forest fires have skyrocketing emissions: Spain is at 53 percent, Portugal 43 percent, and Greece 26 percent over 1990 emissions. The data for these countries will likely be worse for 2006 and 2007 following summers with record-breaking fires.

U.S. emissions are 16 percent higher than 1990, while Canada and Australia are about 25 percent higher than 1990. Of the three, only Canada is a Kyoto signatory.

Publication of the figures coincides with the run-up to a UNFCCC meeting in Bali, Indonesia from Dec. 3-14. That conference, sometimes called Kyoto II, will set out a two-year strategy of negotiations leading to a new pact to deepen curbs on greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol’s current pledges expire.

Kyoto has a legion of critics — many spawned by the oil and coal industry’s relentless attacks on the science behind climate change and unsupported charges that the agreement would bankrupt economies. Proponents say it is far from perfect, but remains the best and only deal on the table to reduce emissions.

“It (Kyoto) has produced no demonstrable reductions in emissions,” wrote British economists Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner in a recent issue of Nature.

“We don’t have time to start over,” said Jonathan Pershing, director of the climate and energy programme at the World Resources Institute, a U.S. environmental think tank.

It took nearly 10 years of talks to get the Kyoto agreement in 1997 for five percent emissions cuts between 2008 and 2012.

To see complete article click Kyoto on Track, Despite Some Slackers

* Illustration provided by artist Franke James

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