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Kyoto and the politics of climate change

16 February 2005

Today the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, and new political battles start.

The Protocol is intended to be a first step in limiting man made emissions of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, with the rich countries making the first move.

One political battle concerns the United States, which has less than 5% of the world’s population and is responsible for a quarter of global emissions but is not taking part. Another concerns the role of developing countries, which are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and whose emissions are rapidly increasing, but which have no commitments under the Protocol.

This spring, openDemocracy will feature a global debate on climate change. Running from April to June, it will focus on the politics of climate change - ahead of the G8 meeting and the UK assumption of the European Union presidency in July, and beyond.

To mark the coming into effect of the Kyoto Protocol, openDemocracy is opening its archive of articles on climate change. You can read Julian Baggini on Greens and climate sceptics, Paul Rogers on Climate change and global security, Benito Muller on Where justice and realism meet, Grover Norquist on The right to be different and not be straightjacketed by Kyoto, and me on The daze after tomorrow, Einstein’s Gravediggers, Energy wars and future of planet earth and on why climate change may be more serious than a tsunami.

In oD's photo essays you can also see how to grow your own beach, and see what do do about the disappearance of the world’s corals.

More to the point, in advance of the upcoming debate, you can post your views on what you think  the key issues and concerns are (including why you don’t think there is an issue of concern, if that’s what you think), and what needs to be done.

Your views will help shape the debate. And the debate, in edited form, will be presented to the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries and made freely available worldwide on the web.

Opponents say the Protocol will hamper economic growth. The British government doesn’t agree. It has claimed a leadership role in what many consider the biggest challenge facing this generation. But little more than a week after it supported a scientific conference which concluded that there is no safe level of emissions, Britain said it would allow its industrial sector to increase emissions by as much as 9%, thereby putting its commitment to Kyoto in doubt.

What chance for a serious politics of climate change?  In part, it's up to you.

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