This article is written by Sébastien Burgess.
I’ve talked about the United States in my preceding post. Now a little bit more about Kyoto.
The Kyoto Protocol only takes into account a little over 15% of current emissions. The importance of committing to a second period, in my view, isn’t so much the impact that it will have on reduction cuts. We are currently on a catastrophic path in terms of the emission gap from here to 2020 anyways. To be more precise, in order to limit global warming to 2C by 2100, global emissions by then should not surpass 44 gigatons of CO2-equivalent per year (or “CO2e” as I’ve explained in an earlier post: for a given mixture of greenhouse gas, the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming potential). However, in the most ambitious of pledges (read: the ones that aren’t and won’t happen because of lack of political will) under the Copenhagen Accord, we are still falling short by 5 to 9 gigatons of CO2e per year.
Most Annex I countries (i.e rich countries who ratified Kyoto) are already on track to reducing their emissions as they position themselves to be major players in the green industry (renewable energies, smart grids, lean production, think of Germany) and environmental awareness is growing in the general public. Don’t get me wrong here, Kyoto is I’ve repeated before, a highly unambitious deal, but it’s not a “make or break” issue for reduction of emissions per se. If we are very serious about limiting global temperature increase to 2C by 2100, we will have to revise our ambitions anyways, and not only Annex-I countries and there 15% emissions, we’re talking about a global and honest conversation amongst all parties involved in the UN climate proceedings. This is the idea behind the Durban Platform which was agreed upon last year at COP17, to get every country on board by 2015 to work towards global pledges in order to limit global warming to 2C degrees or less by the end of the century.
Yet Kyoto2 is crucial because without it, the world will be thrown into a juridical void without any framing structure to track emissions or pledges in a situation that could last until 2020 when a new climate regime is to take effect. Additionally, Kyoto creates a global carbon market that contributes to funding renewable energy and deforestation projects in the developing world. In other words, Kyoto provides a framework for the new climate regime that should be signed in 2015.
Finally, and as Brazilian negotiator Andrea Correa do Lago puts it “If rich countries which have the financial means, have technology, have a stable population, already have a large middle class, think they cannot reduce [emissions] and work to fight climate change, how can they ever think that developing countries can do it? That is why the Kyoto Protocol has to be kept alive.”
On to another topic. Keeping fossil fuels where they belong which is in the ground. This is fast becoming a hot topic in climate circles and I encourage to follow up on it (a good start is with Bill McKibben and his #dothemath campaign). We have 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide left to burn if we want a pretty good chance (80%) of staying within the 2C limit. This is taking into consideration that there is 2795 gigatons of carbon of fossil fuel reserves left, or five times that amount. In other words, we desperately have to start thinking of incentives to keep these reserves that have cheaply fueled 200 years-worth of industrialization in the ground. To restate, that’s over 2/3 of proven fossil fuel reserves that need to stay in the ground and away from the big dollar hungry oil companies. Strategies include ending massive fuel subsidies which right amount to totals five times greater than climate finance, compensation mechanisms for countries or companies to disinvest from fossil fuels, and targeted measures to have cheaper and better access to renewable energies. Catch up on the issue because this is about to become a very prominent element of climate change talk (it certainly is already but I reckon it will become a central part of the conversation). We simply cannot conciliate pursued fossil fuel extraction and ambitious climate goals at the same time.
Author: Sébastien Burgess, born in Paris in 1989. Graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resources Studies. Lives in Mexico City where he works as a cartographer on local environmental projects and sports commentator. Has been involved in environmental activism since his college years and is a proud member of CliMates since its creation in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @BurgessSeb