Is the Kyoto Protocol dead?
It's too early to tell.
From Article 3 of the treaty itself (available here
) the goal is to take necessary steps to reduce greenhouse emissions (carbon dioxide AND methane and other such gases) to 5% below 1990 levels "in the commitment period 2008 to 2012
Measurements of performance to date are just that - they show how countries are doing in getting there.
In the 2005 interim report, Britain and Sweden get the equivalent of "good work, keep it up", and other countries get variants of "must try harder". The exams are still a few years away, some students are going to have to work a lot harder than they otherwise would have done because they've been slacking so far, and some of the slower pupils already look like they are going to flunk out no matter how hard they try between now and the big day.
To put it another way, if this is a race, these reports are the lap times, not the chequered flag.
Kyoto does require of it's signatories that they should have made demonstrable progress towards the goal by 2005, but it doesn't do much to define exactly what constitutes "demonstrable progress". Does it mean "less emissions than you would have had if you hadn't done anything, even if that's still way more than you had in 1990" or does it mean "less than when you signed up but not 5% less than 1990"?
That's a weakness in the treaty I wasn't aware of before I read it just now, so thanks for poking me towards enlightenment, Amlord
Clearly, any replacement or extension of Kyoto needs to be clearer on this point. Should Kyoto be reworked?
I'm not sure Kyoto itself needs to be - it's only scheduled to last another six years anyway, so it's probably too late for it to be expanded now. Obviously, it needs to be replaced with something, and that something needs to include Kyoto stay-at-homes like China, India and the USA.
The monitoring of emissions used in Kyoto has been something of a success - nobody is in dispute that they figures are not a realistic or true assessment of the progress they have or have not made, so that could and should be taken forward pretty much as is into any replacement treaty. Should the US sign Kyoto?
No, but as I said it should play an active part in negotiating, and should sign up (and live up) to whatever replaces it, rather than just gripe form the sidelines as it did and has done all the way through the Kyoto process.
I think Britain might stand a good chance of becoming the Kyoto poster boy. Sure, the decline of coal-fired power stations gave us the head start we currently have, but "alternative energy" is booming (especially windfarms) and there is a serious review of nuclear power underway (not only concerning costs and waste disposal, but whether it's in fact carbon neutral, since the ore is dug out of the ground with oil-fuelled machines and has to be shipped around the world to get to the UK) to see if we can continue on the same trajectory. If
we can - which remains to be seen - and if
our economy can continue to grow - at anaemic rates by US standards, but we haven't had a recession, unlike continental Europe, despite massive increases in public sector investment - then we might become the model for how to meet economic and environmental concerns at the same time in a large economy (No disrespect to the Nordics who are also doing relatively well on Kyoto, but they are not big enough economies to convincingly demonstrate to China or the US that Kyoto-like disciplines might work for them too.)
America's core objection to Kyoto has always been that it's economy would suffer, and would suffer disproportionately more than it's competitors. IF
(and it's still an if, albeit quite a possible one) Britain can prove the first part wrong, perhaps the UK and the USA together can then help to bring China and India on board, and prove the second part wrong too.
Kyoto might not then have dramatically reduced emissions - since the US cooled on the idea, nobody has seriously thought it would - but it might prove to be the test case that convinces the world that the ideas of energy efficiency and renewable source utilisation are essentially sound - surely a good thing in a $80 barrel world, even if global warming is a natural process?