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Climate Change

Kyoto Protocol Extended

Via one of our friends, the big news of the day is that the Kyoto Protocol is being extended (full repost, with image added):

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks during the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the high-level segment of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha December 4, 2012. (Credit: Some rights reserved by MINAMPERU – 2011)

In breaking news (Saturday, December 8, 11:30 a.m. EST), the United Nations climate change conference has reaffirmed the world’s intention to curb carbon emissions by extending the historic Kyoto Protocol.

This move confirms that most of the world appears ready to attack the growing threat of climate change in a positive way. Though Kyoto is not as robust a framework as many are calling for, its passage signals that we may yet find a way to avoid almost certain climate rearrangements and extinction of species, possibly our own.

The chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, which are most vulnerable to projected sea level rise, reacted to the decision:

“This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting, I assure you. It certainly isn’t where we need to be in order to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts…. We will know in the next two years, after which the opportunity to avert the worst impacts of the crisis may be irrevocably lost, whether [world leaders] have delivered on this most basic function of leadership.”

The Responding to Climate Change organization attributes the last-minute adoption of the protocol to a reversal of Poland’s stance regarding excess carbon credits, which is shared by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. A huddle of European Union delegates followed. Also, a number of EU countries and Australia appear to have forgotten to submit their paperwork. Qatar itself may have been instrumental in brokering the deal.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (which represent over 25% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 12% of its gas) have committed to submission of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. They have not yet tied down the scope or timing of these actions. Despite noting that high economic reliance on hydrocarbon production may conflict with national development objectives, the four nations have moved away from the previous tradition of the Gulf states.

Agreement on black carbon emissions and substantial financial pledges from the EU preceded this late development. Litigation due to loss and damage remains an issue for the U.S. However, according to Harjeet Singh, the word “compensation” has been removed from the text after talks among the U.S., EU, African Group, Least Developed Countries, and Alliance of Small Island States.

More news from Qatar will follow.

Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert is covering the UNFCCC meeting in Qatar for (See companion articles recommended here.) Previously, Sandy reported on public health and environmental ramifications of the 2012 U.S. elections and extreme weather disasters over the past few years.

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