Not the place to bury the living: Reactions to Kyoto
by Meghan McCarthy
COP17 is very much alive and buzzing today, and the name that seems to be on everyone’s lips is Canada. Canada, the infamous villain of these negotiations, is doing a good job of instilling confusion into the process for delegates here on the ground. Though its actions are not entirely unexpected, that doesn’t make it sting any less. Since the very beginning, Canada has been notorious for putting polluters ahead of people at COP, and winning countless fossils of the day. This sort of behaviour deeply affects many of the people here, such as developing countries and youth, who have the most to lose from a lack of action on climate change. YOUNGO was invited to present their concerns today in the form of an intervention in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties Under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and in addressing negotiators the message was clear: Kyoto should be kept alive.
Symbolically, a Canadian youth was the presenter, and she was able to show leadership by stating “We are all in this together. We recognize that certain countries can more easily reduce their emissions without compromising their standards of living than others. We remind this to those nations declining to commit to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol. Common but differentiated responsibility is integral to the Framework Convention on Climate Change.” This is why the Canadian Youth Delegation, as well as many other civil society participants are here at COP- to show leadership where we feel our government is not and to hold them accountable to their actions that are compromising our future.
So where do we go from here? The vibe today has been a mixture of disappointment and hope – disappointment that the only legally binding climate change agreement that we have in place is being undermined; but hope that we will find a way forward. As Africa stated in the AWG-KP: “The Africa Group would like to declare clear and loud that it will not let African soil be a graveyard for the Kyoto Protocol.” The role of civil society and the major groups is to not only work with their negotiators to secure the best outcome from this process, but to also show them that leadership comes in many shapes and forms. Leadership can mean standing up for justice and what is right; it means not giving in when times seem tough; and it means keeping sight of the vision of the sustainable future we aspire to and need. In order for any progress to be made at these negotiations, the interests of people must be put before polluters; only then will we get the fair, ambitious and legally binding action we need to avert the climate crisis.