Kyoto or bust?

4 May 2005
Where do international agreements on climate change go after the Kyoto Protocol? The question seems premature to some, given the state of the Protocol, which came into force early in 2005 and runs until 2012, is still uncertain. Upcoming articles in openDemocracy's debate will look at this. Until then two contrasting voices on the issue.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells The Age (Australia, 4 May) "a great deal of effort has been wasted just debating and discussing the Kyoto Protocol...I think what we really need is to focus on some longer-term targets."

Margaret Beckett, Environment Secretar in the UK Labour government, tells openDemocracy (here) that her party is not committed to any proposal for the design and structure of a global agreement on climate change to build on the Kyoto Protocol. Labour's priority, she says, is to create and secure international political agreement on the level of cuts in emissions needed".

Pachauri's comments are worth reading in full (worth even the tedium of going through The Age's registration barrier). He says:

"There's been an enormous loss of confidence. If you go back to 1992 there was a totally different spirit... Developing countries were, by and large, quite willing to do something. Then it took five years for the Kyoto Protocol to be agreed on. Then after that, there's been such a delay in its ratification".

Unless this loss of confidence was repaired, developing countries would not make any commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. "You need to see the developed countries do a lot more and particularly those that are not part of the Kyoto Protocol."

Pachauri said he is particularly concerned that poorer nations would bear the brunt of climate change's worst impacts.

He believes he is winning his battle with global warming sceptics - many of whom belong to, or are connected with, think tanks funded by oil company Exxon Mobil. "They are showing signs of desperation," he said. "They see the scientific community (getting) so much support and having so much conviction, so they feel insecure.

"I wish them well and hope we always have sceptics. Because scientists are no angels. They can get carried away, some are very arrogant... But you can't keep questioning the science forever".

Caspar Henderson

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