by Gwynne Taraska
The UN climate talks currently taking place in Doha will decide the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the world’s only legally binding climate treaty. Although the protocol’s impact on global emissions has been limited, it is still necessary to keep the policy infrastructure associated with it intact. CAP has been following the future of the protocol at Doha and outlines below the key issues and probable outcomes at the meeting.
First and second periods
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change aims to effect emissions reductions that will keep global warming within a 2°C increase over pre-industrial levels. The Kyoto Protocol is among its tools. The first period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP1), which set binding targets for emissions reductions for 37 industrialized nations and the EU, will end this year. A main goal of the current meeting of the parties to the UNFCCC is therefore to implement a second period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP2), which will serve as a bridge between KP1 and the international treaty that will emerge from the Durban Platform and take effect in 2020.
Participants and bystanders
Countries including Australia, Norway, Liechtenstein, Croatia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Switzerland have committed to binding targets in a second period of the protocol. The EU has committed as well. Australia, for example, has pledged to reduce its emissions at least .5% by 2020, and the EU has pledged to reduce its emissions at least 20% by 2020 (both from the base year 1990). Although Japan, Russia, Canada, and New Zealand were signatories of KP1 (Canada later announced that it would never attempt to meet its agreed upon target), they are declining to participate in KP2. In addition, KP2 will not include the US, which signed but never sought to ratify the treaty in the Senate.
A number of questions about KP2 need to be addressed during the meeting, such as a) whether the duration of KP2 should be five or eight years, b) whether developed countries that are not signatories should be permitted to participate in the protocol’s market-based mechanisms, and c) whether countries should be permitted to transfer emissions credits from the first to the second period. Blocs of countries including the Alliance of Small Island States, Least Developed Countries, and the African Group, which represent “100 countries and 1.4 billion people who are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” released a statement on 26 November arguing that the duration of KP2 should be five years, so as to make the targets more ambitious. It also argued that credit carryover should be curtailed and that only parties to the protocol should be permitted to participate in the carbon market it creates. Artur Runge-Metzger, representing the EU in a press briefing on 28 November, summarized the position of developing countries on the last point: “You cannot just enjoy the nice things from the Kyoto Protocol but not commit with the legally binding emission reduction budget for the period 2013-2020.”
For and against KP2
The Kyoto Protocol is of course inadequate in isolation as a defense against climate change.