Kyoto extension flounders at climate talks

Japan and New Zealand announced they will not sign new binding targets, angering environmentalists and poor nations.
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2012 19:06

As global climate negotiations entered their second day, Japan, New Zealand and other countries have announced they will not sign onto a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, angering representatives from poor countries and environmentalists.

First signed more than 15 years ago, the Kyoto Protocol - designed to legally bind countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions - expires at the end of 2012. Extending the agreement is a key goal of the COP18 climate summit in Qatar.

Defending the decision not to sign onto a second commitment period, Masahiko Horie, the head of Japan's delegation, said that less than one quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions are covered by the Kyoto agreement.

"We need a framework that is fair and applicable to all parties," he told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. "China, the US, India and other major emitters have not signed on… everyone has to be in the same boat."

Because of their resistance to extending Kyoto, Japan, Canada, Russia and New Zealand shared the sarcastic "Fossil of the Day" award from the Climate Action Network, an environmental group.

'Crucial stepping stone'

"The Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding deal we have," Kelly Dent, a representative of the aid group Oxfam, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. "It is true it only covers some of the world’s emitters, but it is a crucial stepping stone."

The European Union, Australia and Norway and Switzerland have signed up for a second commitment period.

Follow our in-depth coverage of Doha COP18 negotiations

"We are already applying the rules… we can start to implement [the second Kyoto period] on the first of January without any problems," Henrik Harboe, Norway’s climate negotiator, told Al Jazeera's Sam Bollier on Monday.

Along with compelling industralised countries to reduce their emissions, the Kyoto agreement gives developing countries allowances to burn fossil fuels, as they were not responsible for putting the majority of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the first place. 

Wealthy countries, however, say that large developing nations - including China, currently the biggest contributor to global warming - should have to reduce their emissions.

"Everyone needs to do their fair share; the major emitters need legally binding commitments," Dan McDougall, Canada's chief negotiator, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday, echoing comments made by his Japanese counterpart.

Canada wants a new global agreement to be renegotiated by 2015 and to begin by 2020, McDougall said. Environmentalists believe waiting three more years for a deal is not possible, as they say the planet's future hangs in the balance and concrete action is needed now.

Who pays?

Along with extending the Kyoto agreement, poor countries want wealthy nations to provide a new climate financing deal.
During the 2009 summit in Copenhagen, rich countries pledged $30bn to help poor countries deal with the costs of climate change, helping them transition their economies to renewable energy sources, while mitigating effects from the floods, hurricanes and droughts scientists say are caused by global warming.

In Depth

Environmental issues

  Canada quits Kyoto protocal

Despite suffering from a tsunami, Japan has provided $17.4bn in climate financing for developing countries, Horie said.

Canada - the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States - has delivered more than $1bn to developing nations since 2009 under the "fast-track financing period", McDougall said. "I think all developed countries are behind the idea of mobilising $100bn annually by 2020."

Environmentalists and security experts say that money might be too little, too late for mitigating the massive losses predicted from climate change.

Already, global warming is costing more the $1.2tn annually and responsible for the deaths of nearly 400,000 people, according to September research from the DARA group, an organisation comprised of leading scientists and economists.

The conference in Doha includes about 17,000 participants and ends on December 7.


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