The Independent (The Independent)
Clipped on Monday, December 14, 2009, 07:19 PM
Very few people seem to realise this, but the Kyoto protocol divided the world. With its strict definitions of haves and have-nots, developed and developing, the divisions between rich and poor enshrined in the 1997 treaty are almost as rigid as those between the West and the Eastern bloc in the Cold War. Except that instead of an Iron Curtain, what lies between the two sets of countries is known rather cryptically as “the firewall”. Industrialised countries are not all rich; their ranks include the likes of Ukraine and Croatia.
Nor are all developing countries poor: Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, for example, hardly need to beg for aid. But the distinction matters because under Kyoto only “rich” countries had to make cuts in their carbon emissions. Poor nations, in recognition of their lower per-person emissions and their smaller historical responsibility for causing global warming, were expected to follow suit only when they attained industrialised status.
This all makes sense from an equity perspective – but is shaping up to be extremely bad news for the planet. For if we are to keep temperature rise within tolerable bounds (1.5C is the upper limit, according to front-line vulnerable states like Bangladesh and Tuvalu) then global emissions need to peak about now and start coming rapidly down again, eventually reaching zero by about mid-century. This in turn means that big developing countries like China, India and Brazil, who are expected to account for almost all emissions rises in future, must also take on targets here at Copenhagen – thereby breaching the Kyoto firewall.
In fairness, India and China have both come to this meeting offering targets – but only to cut their emissions intensity (carbon emitted per unit of GDP) not their absolute levels of carbon output. Using this metric, a Chinese CO2 “cut” of 45 per cent translates into a real-world rise of about 100 per cent. By any reasonable scientific measure, this is a recipe for climate chaos.
Chamonix Green & White