The Kyoto Protocol is very much alive. But there are some countries who would like to bury it.
In fact, despite Environment Minister Jim Prentice's comments about "turning the page" on Kyoto, the UN Climate Summit in two months is actually intended to build on the Kyoto Protocol, not find a replacement. At the Montreal climate conference back in 2005, the global community decided that Kyoto would have a second phase, when its first comes to a close at the end of 2012.
December's Climate Summit is the deadline for finalizing what that second phase looks like exactly.
So why all the talk about Kyoto's demise? Well, some countries would like the Protocol to go away, no country more than Canada. The Canadian government decided three years ago that we wouldn't even try to comply with this international agreement. Rather than break international law, the Canadian government would prefer to simply wipe it away.
Kyoto's future has been an ongoing discussion going on in Bangkok this week. Canada and our neighbour to the south have been arguing that we shouldn't have anything that is legally binding. Instead, they argue that rich countries that created the problem in the first place only need to make voluntary pledges that can be reviewed after five years. Those who want action on climate change, including many countries, citizens from all around the world as well as environment,and development groups, want an agreement that is legally binding and with teeth.
But rather than kill the international environmental law in broad daylight, the Canadian government has instead been working to kill it behind closed doors while telling Canadians that it's dead anyway. Fortunately, some of the talks this week and next in Bangkok are open to observers, so citizens get to see the Canadian government's strategy.
This past week, for example, Canada was the only country that wouldn't agree to use 1990 as the base year from which to measure emission reductions. Every other country, 191 in all, recognizes the value in using a common measuring stick, one that has been used for almost two decades.
Partly, this is about hiding all of Canada's emissions since 1990. If we use 2006 as the starting point, the Canadian government thinks it doesn't have to take responsibility for emissions that came before.
But it's also about slowing progress. Spending many hours discussing details like the base year means that there isn't as much time to talk about what emission reduction targets rich countries will take on. And with the weakest 2020 targets on the table, why would the Canadian government want to discuss them?
With only two weeks of talks left before the UN Climate Summit in December, including next week in Bangkok, it will be difficult to hammer out all the details of Kyoto's second phase. But we need global action on climate change. It's vital for the health of our economy, our communities and our future.
Instead of digging Kyoto's grave, Canada should be playing a constructive role. Canada still has the opportunity to work together with other leading industrial nations to meet science-based targets to cut global warming pollution and create clean, renewable energy solutions at home and around the world.
[Originally posted on Vancouver Sun — Community of Interest]