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Goodbye Kyoto Protocol. Hello Paris!

July 20, 2015

A Greenpeace activist dressed in a polar bear costume demonstrates in front of Parliament Hill to call on Canada's minority Conservative government to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, in Ottawa January 29, 2007.  REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Many have heard of the Kyoto Protocol (KP), but did you know it is due to expire in 2020? So what happens next? That is the significance of the COP21 or the Paris negotiations due in December this year. The success of the negotiations largely resides around the idea that every country will submit their own Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, which will serve as the foundation of the new agreement. So what is it?

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We begin with a little bit of history. The KP, agreed in 1997, was a great start to get developed countries to take on responsibilities of cleaning up the mess they have made as they developed themselves. But KP was to have two commitment periods with the first one ending in 2012. And the terms of second commitment period were meant for further discussions and to be agreed upon by 2009, giving governments 3 years to prepare themselves to ensure a smooth transition. Otherwise KP would essentially be dead in 2012.

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This is one of the reason why there were so much pressure put on the climate change negotiation in Copenhagen as the “be all, end all” event that will be the solution to our global warming problems. Nonetheless, it failed to achieve its goals in 2009, largely due to poor institutional framework, lack of national capacity, insufficient political commitments and unrealistic expectations. By the end of 2012, KP was barely salvaged by having the minimum number of countries’ weak commitments to ensure it goes into the second phase with some amendments.

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So, the KP is a done deal. The world managed to buy some sort of commitments until the year 2020. However, the world has changed significantly since 1992 when the climate change negotiations was given birth to at the Rio Summit. Countries grew, technologies advanced, connectivity enhanced, resources further depleted and interests continue to diverge; essentially we live in a totally different world, and that whatever were the conditions for negotiations back then, may not necessarily apply now. A child born then would now be 23 years old. Therefore, there is a need for a different approach in coming up with an agreement to tackle the climate issues at hands post 2020, when KP fully expires.
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While the Climate Change negotiations in 2009 has failed to achieve what it set out to do, in retrospect, the world have managed to learn quite a fair bit from it. For one, expecting heads of States to agree on a global deal, forged by some, in a forced top down manner without solid infrastructure support, not only produced a less than ideal outcome, but created an environment of mistrust. This not so distant bad after taste is what negotiators want to avoid. These existing tensions, concerns, dissent and mistrust have to be taken into consideration as nations continue to work towards a new global deal.

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Therefore, learning from the mistakes made in Copenhagen and in the interest manoeuvring around the pre-existing negotiation sensitivity, the concept of INDC was born.

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Benefits, disadvantages, sentiments and what to expect from COP21 will be shared in the next article. So for now, Goodbye Kyoto Protocol and hello Paris!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2015 3:45 am

    Reblogged this on My Blog News.

  2. July 20, 2015 9:23 am

    Thank you. 🙂

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