- In June, 2001 it appears
that, with Bush in power, environmentalist's worst fears have been
realised; he has effectively renounced Kyoto and confirmed Loy's
point of view. One good thing that has come from this about turn
is that international interest in Kyoto has been focussed. His hand
may be weakened by a slight but significant shift in balance of
power in the Senate as James Jeffords moved from the Republican
Party in May to become an Independent.
George Walker Bush is touring Europe and judging by public demonstrations
is not popular (the environment is only one of several international
contentious issues). He is also meeting Russia's Putin.
Leaders of some nations such as Sweden are quite outspoken and urging
unilateral ratification of the treaty (see article on Kyoto
Background for explanation of how). Such a unilateral stance
depends on support from Russia and Japan and also solid commitment
from all the European states. Italy is a potential weak link due
to its right wing president. The UK is placatory but then Tony didn't
get where he's at by rocking the transatlantic boat. Japan, surprisingly,
shows signs of wavering without commitment from the US. GWB has
many arms he can twist. Australia and Canada are two of the worst
emitters (behind the US) and they are opposed to Kyoto at the moment.
Any fragmentation with lack of support for ratification from those
apparently committed could mean the end of the Kyoto process. If
that happens, environmentalists will be looking for some alternative
to replace it. However, since the Kyoto plan never aimed to tackle
the problem in enough depth there is always hope that something
better may evolve to fill the vacuum. Maybe the next plan could
be Contraction and Convergence (so we've heard). But this last paragraph
is purely speculation.
In June we wait to see what will happen next month in Bonn, Germany.
- In July, 2001 we realise
that combining a diary of events with commentary is difficult. The
ground keeps shifting. The news is that EU diplomacy has scored
with an agreement being reached in Bonn (July 23) where it seems
that all the nations except the US are going to adopt the Kyoto
Protocol. The absence of the US no doubt helped and the work of
Baghir Asadi (from Iran; head of the developing nations) was a positive
factor. Some nations regret that the US was not involved but others
are pleased to put the boot in. We note the new word 'adopt' which
adds to the previous two, 'agree' and 'ratify'. The future of the
KP still begs many questions.
- October 3, 2001 Tony Blair
made his New-World-Order speech. He said (amongst many other things
of course) "We could defeat climate change if we chose to.
Kyoto is right. We will implement it and call upon other nations
to do so"
- February, 2002 we realise
that it is the 10th year since Rio. In that time the world has increased
its dependence on fossil fuels and the CO2 emissions have increased
significantly. Politicians and big business magnates (who ought
to set an example) show scant regard for the global environment.
We may look forward to the next Earth Summit in Johannesburg in
August this year, but with what optimism?
- May 31, 2002 was John Prescott's
birthday. What a marvelous present for him when he was 'phoned
with the news that Japan and the EU had ratified the Kyoto Protocol
that day. This raises the percentage of industrialised countries'
emissions to about 35%. Only another 20% to go and if Russia come
in as promised the target will be very close. Good news too just
before the summit in August.
- Early August, 2002 there's
a right kerfuffle with the next Earth Summit in Johannesburg only
days away. Tony's spin king (Alistair Campbell) decided to cut the
numbers attending the summit. So he did, and left out Michael Meacher.
Environmental groups couldn't believe it, and volunteered to pay
his way, however, 2 days later (8 August) Michael was reinstated.
We could have been the only one of 174 nations without our environment
minister present (think about it!).
- August 26-September 4, we
were incommunicado at the time and later were underwhelmed with
reporting on any progress. Anyway, we fall back on a summary by
Paul Brown (Guardian Ed. Supp. 6 May 2003): "... everyone agreed
that matters had gone downhill fast since 1992 and the problems
were accelerating. The Bush administration and associated oil and
heavy industries took most of the flack for this state of affairs,
although all the world's politicians should bear some of the blame."
Apologies for lifting this quote but, sadly, we could have made
it up for ourselves. On a better note we believe that many people
are much more aware of sustainability, probably as a result of publicity
on the topics.
- Early December, 2003 we read
that Russia is refusing to ratify the Protocol, and since the US
(more accurately GWB and his mates) will not either, this scuppers
the chances of the KP becoming a binding agreement at this time.
Maybe this will change but Russia is starting to develop (hence
producing more emissions) and that means it has less to gain from
emission trading. The EU is not doing too well with its targets
except Sweden and the UK (bless you Tony). The UK announces a financial
boost (said to be worth £2 billion) to the renewable energy
industry, together with extended time horizon, this should please
the banks and therefore the power industry. On top of this there
is progress in increasing wind generation particularly off the UK
coast (see Wind in our Alternative Energy section).
- August, 2004 Kyoto
adoption still looks remote but some nations are addressing the
problems in a fragmented way. We now believe that two things are
evident. First, abnormal climate change is already taking place
and will continue for some considerable time even if the Kyoto ideals
were to be realised soon. Second, George W Bush has demonstrated
beyond any doubt that he is comprehensively ignorant, dangerously
inarticulate and uncompromisingly selfish and has seriously undermined
hopes to adopt the KP internationally. We try not to be political
so it is only fair to say in his favour that he hasn't tried to
cover up his unique qualities and he is not alone in being a shameful
- October, 2004 suddenly,
Vladimir Putin decides to move to ratify Kyoto; should be worth
billions to Russia's economy. Its a welcome decision but only one
small step for mankind on its marathon journey. Assuming ratification
follows, at least we can be happier that GWB will be isolated in
- 22 Oct, the Russian government voted to ratify.
The USA still thumbs its nose at Kyoto.
- 18 November, receipt
of the Russian Federation’s instrument of ratification by
the UN Secretary-General meant that the Kyoto Protocol would at
last come into force from 16 February 2005.
- 6-17 December, COP
10, the Tenth Conference of Parties took place, fittingly, in Buenos
Aires soon after the critical ratification. The impending enforcement
focussed minds, the targets having became real rather than idealised
and there was some clucking in the henhouse (please pardon our irreverence).
A lot of effort seemed to go into avoiding expansion of promises
especially beyond the key date 2012.
- 20 January, 2005,
George W inaugurated for his 2nd term of 4 years. With his sponsors
and main henchmen still around and with his particular religious
bent we dread what 'stuff will happen' next.
- 16 February, 2005: the Kyoto Protocol
is officially in force. No great wind of change but an important symbolic
step. Now the real efforts must be made.
- November-December in Montreal,
the Bush administration was drubbed after the discussions got heated
and the obdurate American delegates walked out. The irony is that
the isolationists found themselves truly isolated. Most of the world's
major nations simply waved the Bush tribe goodbye and made it clear
they would go it alone. Their unity was so dramatic, and world opinion
so well defined, that it wasn't long before the traumatised US team
were back in the room. These talks were not expected to produce
any meaningful advances, but behold they did. Above all was the
agreement to extend and strengthen the Kyoto agreement beyond 2012,
and there were more than 40 resolutions aimed at reducing global
warming. The star of the show was not even present; Bill Clinton
said on TV that the US could surpass the Kyoto targets and still
strengthen its economy. Bill being such a likeable and respected
chap, this had the effect of making the US delegation run around
like headless chickens. So they're back at the table, sulking of
course, but there anyway, and before 2012 Bush should be far out
of sight, returned to his cage maybe. Another star, in Montreal,
was Margaret Becket successfully leading the EU negotiators. By
inference, Tony Blair who clearly sees her as a safe pair of hands
must also attract some credit despite wasting the chance of a lifetime
through 2005 as the G8 and EU leader. The Canadian hosts also deserve
praise for their forthrightness.
- December 2007: nothing significant specific to Kyoto over the past two years although there has been a distinct increase in international awareness of climate change and green issues, and a recent new administration in Australia (which, so far, has blatantly refused to accept the Kyoto spirit). This month the Bali (Indonesia) meeting of 180 nations gets under way. Very much a meeting to arrange meetings with the aim of reaching a global agreement in a couple of years and eventual action spanning forty years. The US are not expected to fall into line but G W Bush should go soon and that may change. The developed countries should be expected to set examples and bear the brunt of emission reduction and rightly so. The developing countries (eg China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico) must be persuaded to make changes but are expected to be partisan. The poor countries are smaller offenders in the carbon emissions stakes but ironically likely to be the worst hit by climate change. Putting this all together convinces us that it is vital that the rich countries really do set very good examples or we shall sink more quickly to extinction. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the view of individuals we have met. Typically their view is 'what difference can we make when enormous nations are burning coal like there's no tomorrow'. While we understand their argument we have no doubt that they are wrong.
- 4 December, 2009: things haven't yet changed fundamentally but there have been several important developments in the last year or so. In the US Dubya has gone and Obama is a welcome replacement. Nevertheless his powers are limited with a morally questionable senate to contend with. In the UK Brown has replaced Blair and Brown shows a streak of moral compassion (often well hidden) which might bode well, although it appears his political influence may be quenched soon. Canada remains the most outstanding and obdurate culprit amongst the deniers and Australia, which seemed to be changing for the better is threatening to go back to its' old ways (due to a well supported opposition leader). China is showing a most welcome and surprising improvement in attitude together with a host of other countries. In general it will come as no surprise that there is much clucking and elbowing as usual.
We think that, although Kyoto appeared to be gutless, it has been responsible for focusing attention and therefore achieved quite a lot. This may be the last entry under the Kyoto heading because Copenhagen will be the byword for future, international climate change strategies. It should be more successful than Kyoto because the reality of global warming is beginning to take shape for every one to see and experience; we wish it every success.