The road ahead for the Kyoto Protocol

The United Nations says that the Kyoto Protocol is generally seen as an important first step towards a truly global emission reduction regime that will stabilise GHG emissions, and provides the essential architecture for any future international agreement on climate change. By the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, a new international framework needs to have been negotiated and ratified that can deliver the stringent emission reductions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has clearly indicated are needed.

According to Climate Action Tracker the aggregated emission-reduction pledges of all Parties in the UN climate convention fall far short of what is needed to get the world on track for limiting global warming to 2°C and 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Both of these warming limits are mentioned in the Cancun Agreements. Similar emission levels are needed in 2020 to meet both temperature targets: Global emissions need to be at 40-44 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent per year by 2020, and to steeply decline afterwards. The Climate Action Tracker added up the international1 reduction target and pledges of individual countries, and has estimated that global emissions in 2020 would be 54 billion tonnes CO2e/year in 2020: A gap of 10-14 billion tonnes remains to reach the reduction level required.

Climate Action Network (CAN) demands that the UN at the Durban conference in 2011 secures a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and thus preserves the only legally binding instrument with emission reduction targets and timetables for developed countries. KP architectural elements are crucial to ensure that mitigation commitments are legally binding and have environmental integrity. (For details of the Kyoto architecture.)

At the same time CAN demands that the UN secures a mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument under the Climate Convention to be adopted no later than 2015 and come into force by the end of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. By 2015 at the latest, the commitments and actions of all Parties, while respecting the principles and provisions of the Convention, should be inscribed in legally binding instruments. In a letter to EU environmental ministers, CAN Europe argues that the European Union is central in shaping the direction of the global climate change regime.

"We have noted that the EU has always had the most impact in international climate negotiations when it has led from the front – by unilaterally adopting clear, ambitious positions, well in time. The Kyoto Protocol is more than just a legal protocol, it holds symbolic meaning for developing countries – and its downfall would provoke outcry and blame. CAN Europe believes that it is in the EU's own interest to save the Kyoto Protocol. Failing to do so will leave climate laggards sitting in quiet satisfaction while the EU takes the blame for destroying the only legally binding set of global climate rules. The only way the EU can put pressure on the largest emitters is to build an inclusive movement of the majority of the world's countries; the EU cannot do this if it abandons the Kyoto Protocol."

Reinhold Pape

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In this issue

Cruise line fined for breaching sulphur rules

A cruise ship operator has been fined EUR 30,000 for contravening European Union rules on the sulphur content of marine fuel. The 88,000 gross tonne Disney Magic was inspected this month while at berth in the Italian port of Naples, and it was found the ship was using a bunker fuel with a sulphur content in excess of an EU regulation that requires ships at berth to use fuel with a sulphur content of no more than 0.10 per cent, unless they are scheduled to be in port for less than two hours.

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