Here we go again: KP on the chopping block

The legal cornerstone of the international effort to address climate change is on the chopping block as parties prepare for the upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Bangkok.

With Canada announcing that it will pull out of the Kyoto Protocol when the treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and Russia and Japan declining to take on new obligations, it is more important than ever to preserve the legal architecture of the only multilateral agreement that binds countries to reduce the emissions responsible for climate change.

Australia and New Zealand, which have outsized per capita emissions, so far have not confirmed whether or not they will agree to a second commitment period.

AOSIS has long been a forceful supporter of a robust Kyoto Protocol as it recognizes the historic responsibility of major emitters to take action first and can serve as an important model as the international community crafts a new legally binding agreement for all countries.

Therefore AOSIS has made very specific demands to ensure the environmental integrity of the treaty moving forward:

First, it is crucial that the second commitment period be five years in length. This would avoid locking in inadequate emissions reduction targets at a time when we know countries need to be doing everything they can to raise, not lower, ambition. It also dovetails with the 2015 IPCC review that will indicate the level of reductions needed based on the latest science. Moreover, it will allow us to respond more quickly to parties that are out of compliance.

Second, the amendment should be applied provisionally so that the new Annex 1 reduction obligations are legally binding at the start of the commitment period.

Third, surplus carry over units from the first commitment period must be responsibly managed to avoid undermining the efficacy of the treaty. If left unchanged, it is possible that countries could technically meet their obligations even as their emissions rise dramatically.

Finally, parties need to take on more ambitious commitments in line with the scientific requirements.