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JAPAN 31 Dec 2012 Kyoto Protocol term due to end

The Kyoto Protocol obliges industrialized nations to adhere to specific carbon emission cuts by 2012. The agreement expires 31 Dec 2012 with no sign t

December 31, 2011 - NULL

JAPAN 31 Dec 2012 Kyoto Protocol term due to end

The Kyoto Protocol obliges industrialized nations to adhere to specific carbon emission cuts by 2012. The agreement expires 31 Dec 2012 with no sign the obligation will be met. The expiry date also marks 20 years since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the basis of the protocol, was signed at the Rio World Summit. The parties can't agree on whether to extend or replace the treaty, and could give up on both options. Deadline pressure could change the picture.

The issues are taken up each year

JAPAN 31 Dec 2012 Kyoto Protocol term due to end

The Kyoto Protocol obliges industrialized nations to adhere to specific carbon emission cuts by 2012. The agreement expires 31 Dec 2012 with no sign the obligation will be met. The expiry date also marks 20 years since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the basis of the protocol, was signed at the Rio World Summit. The parties can't agree on whether to extend or replace the treaty, and could give up on both options. Deadline pressure could change the picture.

The issues are taken up each year at Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings. COP is the governing body of the UNFCCC.

The UNFCCC sought to examine global climate change -- how it might affect humans and what can be done to present it. It came into force on 21 Mar 1994, and has universal membership.

The Kyoto plan was adopted 11 Dec 1997 in Japan. Though forged to reflect UNFCCC findings, it has not enjoyed the near-universal favor of its parent. It called for a 5.2 per cent reduction from 1990 levels from some 40 nations.

"Complicated, seemingly intractable impasse" best describes the situation approaching the deadline. Japan, Russia and Canada said they don't want to extend Kyoto unless the two biggest emitters, China and the United States, are brought into the pact. But major emerging economies led by China and India do not want to commit themselves to a legally binding deal while the world's biggest economy, the United States, has not signed the protocol.

The EU and other rich countries have been opposed to a second commitment period after the current period ends in 2012 as they want emerging economies to agree to binding reductions before they pledge to make further reductions themselves. Discussions have also taken place on whether Europe should make a unilateral decision to cut emissions by 30 per cent on 1990 levels over the next decade, with the debate set to be taken up again next year. Europe has currently committed to a 20 per cent cut.

In 2001, then-president George W Bush removed the United States from the Kyoto process. The political climate in Washington ahead of the deadline makes it unlikely the United States will give ground to China or to other opponents of US environmental policy.

Though staring at the 2012 Kyoto expiry when they met at a 2009 summit in Copenhaven, world leaders failed to agree on extensions or a replacement treaty. More than 120 nations agreed in Copenhagen to find a way to limit the rise in average global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius but differences remain over how to achieve that goal.

Some headway was made on carbon cuts one year later at a meeting of the parties in Cancun, Mexico. Environment ministers agreed at the annual UN climate talks on modest steps to combat climate change but failed to commit to legally binding emissions cuts. The UNFCCC has deemed the 2-degree Celcius peg insufficient, and there is no consensus on ways to verify adherence.

The meeting of the parties (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, in Nov-Dec 2011, or other meetings ahead of the expiry date could see breakthroughs because the pressure on all sides from the UNFCCC will be relentless. If the deadlock persists, the parties might not even be able to agree on keeping the machinery of the UNFCC in place beyond Dec 2012. Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, has been traveling the world to rally support for a drive to break through the stalemate. Figueres explained governments need to agree a way to cut global emissions about twice as fast as they have already promised, along with increasing the certainty that they will do what they say. (WRITTEN Mar 2011)

RELATED READING:

US sees major emitters setting own climate goals (Reuters 21 Feb 2011)
http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE71K0B020110221?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

UNFCCC
http://unfccc.int

Official COP17 web
http://www.cop17durban.com

UN urges Japan to accept Kyoto extension (Reuters 28 Feb 2010)
http://af.reuters.com/article/metalsNews/idAFTOE71R03N20110228

UN's top climate change official calls on governments to quickly transform Cancún Agreements into action, provide clarity on future of the Kyoto Protocol (UN news release 1 Mar 2011)
http://unfccc.int/files/press/press_releases_advisories/application/pdf/pr20110103tokyo.pdf Copenhagen climate summit: history of climate change (Telegraph 4 Dec 2009)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/copenhagen-climate-change-confe/6729366/Copenhagen-climate-summit-history-of-climate-change.html#

Reason for Optimism out of the Cancún Climate Summit? (Nation 14 Dec 2010)
http://www.thenation.com/article/157107/reason-optimism-out-canc%25C3%25BAn-climate-summit

Date written/update: 2011-12-31