Friday, December 7, 2007

The Kyoto Song And The Bali Dance

"...the world is already at or above the worst-case scenarios in terms of emissions and we are moving past the most pessimistic estimates of the IPPC." - Germany's Kiel Institute for World Economy.

Representatives from more than 190 nations are meeting in Bali this week for talks to find a successor to the emissions-curbing Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012. The outcome of the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will define the world's response to the threat of global warming and climate change in years to come.

Will the Bali talks result in a universal framework of concrete actions and commitments from the world's industrialised nations to adopt binding and absolute targets to curb and reduce greenhouse gases or will it be just another song and dance showpiece like the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol came out of the UNFCCC and was adopted in Japan in Dec 1997 with an expiry in 2012. The Protocol committed 36 developed countries to reducing emissions of six greenhouse gases by around 5 per cent below 1990 levels and the target must be met between 2008 and 2012.

But since its inception 10 years ago, global carbon dioxide levels have increased instead, from 365 parts per million in 1998 to 383 parts per million today and the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases with an annual emission of more than 6 billion metric tons, has yet to ratify the Protocol, with Australia signing it just recently with its change of government. Countries like Canada, while being a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has largely ignored it with emissions up by about 25% from 1990 levels, without taking environmental degradations like deforestation in Canada into account.

Clearly, the 36 developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol have failed to deliver on their promises and carbon emissions have actually continued to rise in many industrialised countries that ratify the Protocol. Emissions have also soared in developing countries, like China, India and Brazil, who have ratified the accord but were not required to cut emissions. According to a report recently released by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, explosive economic growth and voracious coal consumption has led China to overtake the U.S. in CO2 emissions in 2006.
Deforestation in Indonesia
Large scale deforestation, a major contributor to global warming and which accounts for about 20 per cent of all global carbon dioxide emissions, is still unchecked in Indonesia and Brazil. Recent reports by Greenpeace indicated that between 2000 and 2005, an area of forest equivalent to 300 soccer pitches was destroyed every hour in Indonesia, making it the third largest CO2 polluter.

Probably the only positive outcome of the Kyoto Protocol was the increase in awareness among the general public and there is now a greater readiness among the people to act and to demand action. What is sorely lacking and what is needed is the political will.

With the United States divisive stand and indication that it is still opposed to mandatory capping in carbon emissions and Japan's latest proposal to adopt a broad "least common denominator" approach, without legally binding targets, in the Bali talks plus the contentious issues of equity, slowing of economic growth due to environmental controls and reduction definitions by per capita or per volume basis, the Bali conference is unlikely to produce an updated and strengthened successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

But produce it must, as the time for talking is over and the days of waiting for Bush is long gone. With or without the US, the world must act now as it no longer can afford another 10 years of inaction. The UN, EU and ASEAN must show desperately needed leadership and use the Bali conference to come up with a coherent agenda and mobilise global public opinion to support concrete, legally binding and absolute reduction targets in greenhouse gases emissions.

Let's hope the Bali conference is a dance that will result in a revolution that the world desperately needs - a healing one - before it is too late.

*Sources :
- Greenpeace
- World Wildlife Fund
- Kiel Institute for World Economy
- Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
- Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, United Nations

*Related post : A Planet In Peril

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Liza said...

Great work.