Flames consume huge areas of forest in Vale Alto, Portugal. Portugal has declared a national disaster after the worst forest fires in more than two decades killed nine people, torched thousands of hectares of forest and destroyed homes.
Kyoto - possible pitfalls
Although it is the only international agreement which limits the
emissions that cause climate change, the Kyoto Protocol is far from
perfect, and contains potential loopholes. Over the years of
negotiations, many of these have been closed or restricted, but
enough remain to undermine the effectiveness of the agreement if
the international community is not vigilant.
The Kyoto trading mechanisms rely on a robust and,
ideally,'leak-proof' architecture including national accounting
systems and asystem of international controls to ensure that the
actual overallemissions reduction targets are achieved. The Clean
DevelopmentMechanism (CDM) to some extent lies outside this
architecture as itdepends on ensuring that projects in developing
countries reduceemissions below a hypothetical baseline, 'what
would have happenedwithout the project'. Unlike trading and Joint
Implementation (JI), italso permits Annex B Parties (industrialized
countries) to increasetheir overall allowed emissions because of
the 'credits' earned fromthe reductions in developing
Theseproblems mean there is an acute need to ensure that
projectmethodologies for the CDM are watertight and achieve real
climatebenefits. Much of the wrangling over the past seven years
has been overmaintaining the integrity of this architecture. The
result is less thanperfect, but overall provides a solid basis upon
which future progresscan be built. Its greatest weakness is the
mixing of fossil carbonemissions and organic carbon stocks,
generating credits from so called'carbon sinks', which result in
more fossil carbon being introducedinto the biosphere in the name
of emissions reductions.
The trouble with 'sinks'
Underthe terms of the Kyoto Protocol certain changes to land use
andforestry activities that can sequester carbon can be counted
towardmeeting emissions reduction obligations under the Protocol.
The theoryis that if a ton of carbon is stored in a tree (a so
called 'sink' forcarbon) and hence removed from the atmosphere,
then a country would beallowed to add a ton of carbon to its
allowed emissions from burningfossil fuels.
This whole theory - that creating 'sinks' inforests, plants and
soils, whereby carbon dioxide is taken out of theclimate system to
offset higher fossil fuel emissions - is quitewrong.
Unfortunately, carbon stored in trees is not permanentlyremoved
from the atmosphere and there is a high probability that theton of
carbon counted as stored in the tree will find its way back intothe
atmosphere eventually. The result of this is that the burden
ofreducing emissions is simply shifted to future generations.
Themain point, however, is that the use of sinks must not divert
anypolitical or financial resources away from the primary task:
reducingemissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Really, sinks
do not even"buy us time", as some have argued. If the
industrializedcountries do not achieve major emission reductions in
the near term, wemay lose our ability to avoid dangerous climate
change, by anyone'sdefinition.
The goal of the Kyoto Protocol is to reduceemissions, not to
create mechanisms for avoiding reductions. Therefore,Greenpeace
seeks to minimize the use of sinks in the Protocol as muchas
possible, and we note that a number of countries have
alreadypledged they will not take advantage of this loophole at
Weall need to work together in order to keep our
governmentshonest. There is always pressure from the fossil fuel
industry to"take the easy way out" by reducing emissions on paper
only. While this might work well for the fossil fuel industry's
short-termprofits, it would spell disaster in the longer run. Find
our howyou can help on our Take
to Kyoto Protocol