Events Worldwide Will Mark Start of Kyoto Protocol

KYOTO, Japan, February 15, 2005 (ENS) - Across the globe, a series of official events will be held tomorrow to celebrate the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. After February 16, 35 industrialized countries and the European Community are legally bound to reduce their combined emissions of six major greenhouse gases duing the five-year period 2008-2012 to below 1990 levels.

"The 16th of February 2005 marks the beginning of a new era in international efforts to reduce the risk of climate change," said Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from her office in Bonn, Germany.

Waller-Hunter

Joke Waller-Hunter heads the UN Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
"The Kyoto Protocol offers powerful new tools and incentives that governments, businesses and consumers can use to build a climate-friendly economy and promote sustainable development," she said.

To date, 141 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but only 35 countries are required to reduce their emissions at this time. Many of the other countries are voluntarily reducing their emissions for the sake of the global climate.

A special feature of the commemoration will be a Kyoto Relay of Messages, with Japanese Environment Minister Yuriko Koike serving as master of ceremonies. Starting in Kyoto at 10.00 p.m. (1.00 p.m. UTC/GMT), 10 dignitaries will exchange messages via video hook-up.

Koike

Japan's Environment Minister Yuriko Koike will host international ceremonies in Kyoto. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Messages will be delivered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, European Commission President Jose Barroso, the environment ministers of the UK, Canada and Germany, and Chinese and Micronesian officials.

A commemorative symposium will begin the formal observances held at the Kyoto International Conference Hall where the Protocol was originally adopted on December 11, 1997.

The symposium and the message relay will be webcast live in English and Japanese at http://www.kyoto-protocol.jp/. The webcast will also be made available after the event on-demand.

The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol will also be marked in other cities around the world. In Brussels, for example, the occasion will be celebrated by members of the European Parliament and by the European Commission.

The European Union's executive Commission is inviting the 141 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol to a cocktail party to celebrate. The United States and Australia, who have rejected the Kyoto Protocol, are not invited.

In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests will organize a workshop "Clear Skies India."

Morocco's Ministry for Planning, Water and Environment is organizing a nation-wide TV broadcast and seminar in Casablanca.

The City of Bonn, the German NGO Forum and the UNFCCC secretariat will host an event in Bonn.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a Round Table hosted by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives will consider a new guide for local governments in Latin America. Representatives of local governments will discuss their role in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support their countries in meeting commitments within the UN Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.

A full listing of events is found at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/kyoto_eif/items/3363.php

The decision of Russia to ratify the protocol late last year, satisfied the requirement for entry into force that 55 Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention accounting for 55 percent of that group’s carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 must ratify.

In Russia, the government is considering a new Kyoto Protocol implementation plan submitted today by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. Vsevolod Gavrilov, the deputy director of the ministry's nature and property relations and environmental management economy department, told reporters today that, under the plan, real economy greenhouse emissions are to be cut first.

power plant

The Russian power plant Moscow 27 is fueled with coal. This plant and others like it will have to improve their fuel efficiency. (Photo courtesy Mosenergo)
The power generation industry is to improve its fuel consumption efficiency by eight percent by 2010. The natural gas industry is planned to reduce gas losses by 47 billion cubic meters by 2010.

In addition, the reforestation rate is to be stepped up by 15-25 percent over the current level as forests are known to absorb greenhouse gas emissions.

A committee will be established by mid-2006 to monitor compliance, but no fines are provided for in the plan, Gavrilov said.

"However, if we do not stick to our commitments, this will affect the potential quota buyers' attitude to our country," he said.

Gavrilov said Russia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will not hinder the country's economic growth.

The Kyoto Protocol has been at least eight years in negotiation. When it finally takes effect on Wednesday, the international carbon trading market will receive a strong market signal. The protocol's emissions trading regime enables industrialized countries to buy and sell emissions credits amongst themselves, a strategy that is aimed at improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of emissions cuts.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will begin to operate at full power. The CDM encourages investments in developing country projects that promote sustainable development while limiting emissions.

And the protocol's Adaptation Fund, established in 2001, can become operational to assist developing countries to cope with the negative effects of climate change.

Friends of the Earth International warned today that the climate change protocol is only a "first modest step" towards more drastic greenhouse gas emission cuts needed to address climate change.

Catherine Pearce of Friends of the Earth International said, "Whilst Kyoto is an important first step, we really need to see some teeth to future international efforts. The world around us is already changing, in dramatic and life threatening ways, It is time for rich countries to act now, before it becomes too late. The U.S., as the world’s biggest polluter must of course play its part."

Under President Bill Clinton, the United States signed the protocol, but President George W. Bush took office before it was brought to the Senate for ratification, and he backed away from the treaty, saying it would be bad for the American economy.

turbine

Australia's island state of Tasmania installed three wind turbines in 1998, reducing diesel consumption on the island by 20 percent (Photo courtesy Australian Greenhouse Office)
Australia followed the Americans' lead. The Howard Government made no comment today, but the Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA) said that Australia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could result in $10 billion of investment in wind energy projects.

On the eve of a wind energy conference, AusWEA President Ian Lloyd-Besson said, "Changing our approach to climate change and renewable energy technologies would result in significant investment and job opportunities, as well as the chance to be a leader in greenhouse gas reduction, rather than the worst polluters per person in the world."

The Climate Action Network (CAN) - over 340 nongovernmental organizations working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels - is coordinating events in capitals and key cities around the world on and around February 16 with a theme of "A New Dawn for Climate Protection." A list of CAN events is found at: http://www.climatenetwork.org/kyotoevents.htm