It's the Environment, Stupid.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Beyond Kyoto

The wireless pirating isn't going as planned - people are wising up to internet leeches like me and securing their connections (as they should). Just makes it hard to keep up with the blogging until the cable guys come on Friday.

In any case - the Kyoto Protocol has been in the news lately.

An AP story from June 3 "Globe Confronts Warming as Emissions Grow" (via the NYTimes) reports on the latest Kyoto Protocol update: Britain and Sweden are on track for emission reduction targets, everyone else isn't - well those Annex 1 countries who have ratified the protocol anyway. (If you haven't heard, the US is not one of those countries.)

"In Washington, the Bush administration says it will rely on industry's voluntary cutbacks and on government investment in clean-energy technologies to reduce emissions...The White House objects that Kyoto-style mandates would badly crimp the U.S. economy, and complains that China, India and other poorer but fast-growing economies are not regulated by Kyoto." (Are we STILL using the economy as an excuse for inaction?)

One of the biggest questions since the protocol went into effect in Feb 2005 has been, 'what happens beyond 2012?', which is the end of the first phase of the protocol, where the high-income countries are supposed to reduce their emission levels by a certain percentage.

Of course there are still a few years before 2012 - but considering the Kyoto Protocol was introduced in 1997 (an extension of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992) and didn't go into effect until February of 2005, I think we should get going on Kyoto part II.

For the next phase, I think diplomats and beaurocrats should give the thing some teeth. No more whining and crying about the economy vs. the environment. Reducing emissions is possible (albeit slow) - as has been shown by all the ratifying countries so far, and their economies are still functioning. The next phase should be tougher and should bring more countries on board (ie. US - which won't really have any excuse by then because China and India will also be poised for entry.) I also think the protocol should do more to address energy issues - not using coal, and relying more on natural gas and old school nuclear technologies won't be good for anyone in the long run. Plus the clean development mechanism needs to be evaluated (this is where annex I countries can gain credits and 'reduce' emissions in lower-income countries instead of their own). The process by which projects are approved should be evaluated for effectiveness, as should the projects themselves, as to whether or not they were beneficial (or rather, met emission reduction/energy needs) in the countries where they were implemented. Maybe credits can also be given to countries who legitimately support clean energy R&D or stiff penalties could be thrown in for not meeting targets.

As the years pass by the evidence of climate change will only become more apparent. Right now, there doesn't seem to be any urgency in the matter, with the exception of a few island nations that are slowly being evacuated due to rising waters. Talks are going on now as to what happens beyond Kyoto - but it is important for those talks to be followed up with action.

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