Kyoto Anniversary

Today marks the 8th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force.

“8th” isn’t exactly a round number but this year happens to be the transition period from the first commitment period (2008-2012) to the second (2013-2020).

Hence I thought today deserves a short remark.

As the name of Kyoto suggests, it was adopted in my country’s old capital in 1997. In fact, the Protocol was the reason why I stepped into this field. I was a student living in Kyoto and very complicated nature of the problem made me interested in the issue of climate change. So, Kyoto was at least effective to make one freshman college student serious about the issue and make him choose his career for that.

After 8 years, the world is on track to 4 degree or 6 degree world. We are nowhere near securing a climate safe future. You could say Kyoto wasn’t sufficient by pointing out this fact. However, it is also crystal clear that the world would have been in the worse place without Kyoto.

Although one of the largest contribution made by Kyoto was setting legally binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, I believe the effect wasn’t just that. It sets out the basic elements of climate policies that run through today and affected almost all the countries.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect and has some its flaws. And yet.

Now is the time to build on and step up what Kyoto has accumulated.

What’s bothering me is my country didn’t sign up for the second commitment period of the protocol. It said the Protocol would “fix” the separation between “developed” and “developing” countries.

It might look so in today’s context. But we have to know it is developed countries like Japan which screwed the trust building process leading up to today by asserting actions were needed on developing countries’ side BEFORE they took sufficient action.

If you look at Japan’s GHG record, the country never succeeded to bring down its emissions below 1990 level before the Lehman shock hit the economy. The country can achieve the target in Kyoto with credits and sinks but the substance of efforts wasn’t certainly not impressive to claim that “we did our share.”

I wouldn’t say it was just developed countries’ fault. Some very unconstructive negotiation stance from major economies certainly disturbed the process. When I was sitting in the conference plenary room as an observer, I sometimes wondered why the negotiations had to be so destructive many times.

After the country decided not to join Kyoto’s CP2, Japan seemed to plan its own actions under its own emission reduction target. Today, even the voluntary target is fading away.

I have to ask: where is our pride? Walking away from the treaty that has old capital’s name is one thing but not showing its way even after almost two years since the earthquake is a different thing.

In a nutshell, we are in a deep sh*t hole on this epic day.

There are signs of hopeful changes in this country. I’m not as pessimistic as this sounds and I have some optimism left in me.

With renewed determination, we must continue our efforts.