Love the One You’re With: Reflections on Kyoto
Written by: Robin Tress
This week at COP Japan refused to sign a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol outright. Following this statement, it was released that Canada, Russia, and at least one other country were also going to block a second commitment to Kyoto. Canada´s Minister for the Environment said himself that Canada would rather sign onto an agreement that had all countries committing to targets rather than just Annex 1 countries (developed nations that took on emission targets during the first KP commitment period).
Environment Minister Baird wants all countries to commit to emission reductions. On the surface, that sounds like a great idea. We’ll all cut our carbon footprints! It will be great! However, when you think about the way in which Annex countries became developed (by exploiting oil resources), and the reason that climate change exists in the first place (Annex countries have been burning fossil fuels for upwards of 200 years), the idea of everyone taking on reduction targets right now seems a little less reasonable.
The Kyoto Protocol, born in 1997, was built on the premise of “common but differentiated responsibility” for climate change. This phrase translates into real life by Annex countries (those whose development was made possible by the burning of fossil fuels) needing to take the first step in reducing GHG emissions. This concept is referred to widely as ´climate debt´ and was accepted by all Annex countries (including Canada) who signed onto Kyoto in 1997. But now, nearing the end of our first commitment period under Kyoto and in a position to negotiate a second period, “Environment Minister Baird has made it clear the Harper government is opposed to a number of its key principles, including the differing nature of the commitments between rich and emerging economies.”
I would like to point out that Kyoto was created in 1997, 5 years after the inception of the UNFCCC. Ratification within all countries´governments took 7 years, and Kyoto´s first commitment period spans from 2005-2012. If the Canadian government refuses a second commitment period under KP, we are throwing more than a decade of negotiations out the window, and delaying a global FAB deal until at least 2020. Keep in mind that the science has irrefutably shown that in order to avoid “run away climate change” we need to peak our emissions by 2015, which will be basically impossible without a global deal being made before that time.
Now, it´s been said that Kyoto is not the ideal framework to deal with climate change and injustice, and like anything else, KP is not perfect. But the age-old saying still applies: if you can´t be with the one you love, love the one you´re with. We´re with Kyoto, and deadlines are so fast approaching that we don´t have time to go looking for a trophy treaty. If we reject Kyoto and instead work towards a new framework for global climate discussion, we are without a doubt putting ourselves on the path to disaster.