by Jane I. P. Nurse
It’s the third day of the negotiations and there are dark clouds hovering over the Kyoto Protocol. Japan has shocked us all with an aggressive up-start at the beginning of this week. By proclaiming that it won’t sign on to a second commitment period after the Kyoto protocol runs out in 2012, it basically backstabs everybody trying to push for further emission reduction commitments from developed countries.
It is a pretty sad state of affairs if negotiators are down to discussing (and in the case of Japan, opposing) the validity of the continued existence of the Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, one may even celebrate if the Kyoto Protocol dies. It is not an ideal treaty – it’s just the only one we’ve got. The emission reductions commitments of developed nations under the Kyoto Protocol aren’t nearly sufficient to tackle climate change. Up-to-date developed countries have not delivered true emission cuts as demanded by science and the vulnerable of the world. Instead of reducing their emissions, most countries have increased theirs and bought good-looking offsets in India, China, and Brazil. So would the world be better off with or without the Kyoto Protocol?
Some countries still seem to think we do need it. Yesterday AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) initiated a rescue mission for the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. These countries are truly endangered by the impact of climate change and take their own survival dead-serious. The small Caribbean island state St. Lucia just experienced the trashing of 60 percent of its economy by Hurricane Thomas. That was just one hurricane! Imagine the effect of a series of natural disasters like that—small islands around the world will be washed into the sea and eaten up in no time. So it doesn’t come as surprise when the small Pacific island of Tuvalu is vigorously pressing for the conclusion of the work on the Kyoto Protocol here in Cancun, and for shaping it up for ratification at COP17 in Durban, South Africa next year.
Yet how close can we be to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol if countries are spending their time not negotiating the modalities of a second commitment period but wrestling over this fundamental question: Shall Kyoto survive?