To Kyoto, or not to Kyoto, that is the question!

by Guest Blogger

August 1, 2005

For the Bush administration, the answer to that question has been clear

since 2001: “No.” However, simply saying “No” to Kyoto seems to be a more and more difficult position to maintain for the White House. It does

seem like the Bush Administration is being pressured on all sides: U.S.

states and cities, leaders of the G8 and even members of the Republican

Party are calling for action on climate change.

So far, Bush’s response to this criticism has been a lot of hot air, and

unfortunately the announcement made yesterday morning in Thailand is no

exception. This so-called “Vision statement” has no specific objectives

in terms of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing

global warming. There are no indications of how this mechanism would

work, or how much money is going to be invested in it, and the

technological options proposed would please even the most anti-Kyoto

forces in the world – like Mr. Bush’s buddies at Exxon.

On the other hand, the answer to the question above should be equally

clear to the 152 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol: Kyoto

has to be the only game in town. Why? Because it is the only global

agreement with targets and timetables to reduce greenhouse gas

emissions, because it took about a decade to negotiate and clarify all

the rules, and finally because thanks to the Kyoto agreement countries

around the world are starting to reduce their emissions. Countries

should know that the minute we start signing side deals with only a

handful of countries and where anybody can choose to do what they want

to do, the global effort to tackle climate change becomes seriously

compromised. And if I were paranoid, I’d say that’s exactly what the

White House is trying to do.

I can just imagine Canadian Environment Minister, Stphane Dion, and our

Prime Minister, Paul Martin, waking-up to news of this new agreement

this morning, and being rather unhappy with their U.S. counterparts. After

all, the vast majority of Canadians take great pride in the fact that we

ratified Kyoto despite the Bush administration’s refusal to do so.

Not only that, but Canadian officials are hard at work preparing the

next United Nations meeting on climate change, which is set to take

place in Montreal at the end of November. This meeting will be one of

the most important one since Kyoto in 1997. It’s the first meeting of

Conference of Parties (countries that have signed and ratified the 1992

Rio Convention on climate change ” which includes the U.S.) to ever take

place in North America, and it’s objective is to prepare for the next

steps after Kyoto.

For the Canadian government, and most of the countries that have

ratified Kyoto, the new U.S. lead initiative is nothing less than a slap

in the face. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time. In 2001 when the

U.S. announced it was pulling out of Kyoto, Christine Todd Whitman was

attending a conference on the Kyoto Protocol with some 34 other

ministers of the environment from all over the Americas (that conference

was held in Montreal and hosted by Canadian Environment Minister of the

time, David Anderson). It seemed Whitman failed, or maybe just forgot,

to mention to anybody at the meeting, including Minister Anderson, the

fact that the White House was pulling out of Kyoto. Clearly, he was not


But in July of the same year the rest of the world united and refused to

let the Bush Administration ‘kill’ this important international

agreement. We hope that this effort can be repeated, and that the U.S.

administration can be convinced to take meaningful action and come back

on board.

All of that being said, Mr. Bush and I do agree on one point, Kyoto

won’t cut it. Unfortunately, the convergence stop’s there. For those of

us concerned about climate change, Kyoto is only the beginning, since

industrial countries must reduce emissions up to 80 percent by

mid-century (compared to 1990) in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

– Steven

Steven is a Greenpeace Canada climate campaigner who joined us on July

25th. He has

been fielding calls from Canadian press over the satellite phone about

the global warming “Vision Statement” released by the White House. After Greenland, the ship will go to Canada.

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