Friday, November 23, 2007

Industrialized Kyoto Countries Can Meet Reductions, If...

On Tuesday, the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat announced (also here) that although emissions from 40 industrialized countries almost reached an all time high in 2005,

Taken together, the countries that signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol are projected to achieve reductions on the order of 11 per cent for the first Kyoto commitment period, from 2008 to 2012, provided policies and measures adopted by these countries deliver the reductions as projected. The Kyoto Protocol commits industrialized countries to a 5 per cent reduction target in 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels.

This statement refers to the 36 States, which are the highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing transition to a market economy, which are the only ones legally bound to meet the emissions reductions. Although their emissions are still rising, mechanisms for reducing emissions are still being put in place, so their impacts have not taken effect yet.

For the totality of Kyoto signatory countries, reductions of 15 per cent are feasible, should additional policies be planned and implemented.

However, the developing countries have non-binding obligations to limit emissions, and combined with two major industrialized emitters who refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (The United States of America and Australia) global emissions are likely to continue to rise. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, has called on the countries who are major emitters (including the U.S.A., Australia, the developing former Soviet-bloc) to take a greater role in reducing global emissions.

...we should not hide the fact that there is continuing greenhouse gas emissions growth on the part of several countries and that they must do more to reign in their emissions.

According to the International Herald Tribune, "Emissions by the United States, which rejected the Kyoto accord, grew by more than 16 percent from 1990 to 2005, and is projected to rise to 26 percent by 2012. "

The negotiations in Bali, just a few weeks away, will focus on a post-2012 (the year by which reductions need to be met under the Kyoto Protocol) international climate change plan. Although the U.S.A. and Australia are not currently a part of the Kyoto Protocol, this does not prevent them from joining the post-2012 agreements. According to de Boer,

A future, ambitious UN climate change regime needs to continue and expand the central elements of the Kyoto Protocol, whilst making use of other policy tools, such as carbon taxes and other effective policy packages. Only then can we ensure that the type of sweeping emission reductions that science tells us are needed are brought about and that the billions of dollars needed for measures to adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change are generated.

Developing a post-Kyoto agreement will be tricky, especially in reducing emissions from developing countries while ensuring a just transition to an industrial economy, with major emitters like the U.S.A., Australia and China trying to avoid binding reduction goals, and the continued rise in global emissions making it more and more difficult to reach the scientifically necessary emission levels. However, I am hopeful that the negotiations in December will lay out a strong framework for developing this plan, and I am hopeful that the United States youth delegation will get their message across that the the people of the United States are working to reduce emissions, even if our government is not taking the lead.

Cross-posted on It's Getting Hot In Here and Bali Buzz.

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