The road to UNFCCC COP 18 and beyond - Energy and Climate Change Contents

4  Kyoto Protocol

Usefulness of the architecture

40. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was a success in its own terms—many of the countries involved look as if they will be in compliance with their first commitment targets. The Kyoto Protocol also created an invaluable architecture for future agreements, including common emissions reporting, accounting standards and a compliance system. Whatever the UNFCCC wants to deliver, it is important that this architecture is kept alive. Dr. Watts said that "one of the key things that were won at Durban was that political commitment, through a number of parties, to that architecture and keeping that on the table as part of the negotiations looking forward to the future."[54]

41. Between 2013 and 2015 there will be a review on whether the target to limit the global average temperature increase to 2 °C should be reduced to 1.5 °C. In the same period the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be published. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol needs to have a review clause so that it can act on these findings. WWF-UK pointed out that a second commitment period of eight years to 2020 has "a certain logic to it", as the Durban Platform is due to be implemented from 1 January 2020.[55]

42. We recommend that the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol lasts for eight years until 2020. In addition it must have a review clause in case the IPCC report recommends that the target for the global average temperature increase be cut from 2 °C to 1.5 °C.

Kyoto Protocol versus Durban Platform

43. There are parallel tracks under the UNFCCC: the old negotiation track in the form of the continuation of the Kyoto process and the Long Term Co-operative Action track, and the new one in the form of the emergence of the Durban Platform which has resulted from the Copenhagen voluntary commitments and the Cancun Agreements.[56]

44. Prof. Jacobs said that it is "nearly time" to abandon the Kyoto process and move efforts on to the Durban Platform. The second Kyoto commitment period is likely to be the last one, but it is desirable in order that the architecture be preserved. Rules have been established, for example with regard to counting emissions tonnes, trading arrangements and the Clean Development Mechanism and it is important that these are carried over. [57]

45. The strength of the Durban Platform—unlike the Kyoto Protocol—is that it is based on voluntary commitments. Sir David King pointed out that the Kyoto Protocol "was always going to be blocked by the United States [and] the follow-through from the United States not signing up is that China was never going to sign up and then those two nations take another set of nations with them." Moving towards a voluntary agreement allows the process to continue without being blocked. This dynamic of international pressure has achieved a measure of commitment from the United States and China, as well as other major emitters, which Kyoto did not manage to achieve.[58]

46. The current state of the Kyoto Protocol is that Canada has formally withdrawn and Japan and Russia have stated that they will not sign up for quantifiable targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Dr. Falkner asserted that we could put pressure on Japan and Russia but "that would add very little to the environmental effectiveness of that agreement."[59]

47. It is highly improbable that countries such as Canada, Russia and Japan will sign up to the second Kyoto period. Many of them have publically stated they will not. Instead diplomatic efforts should now be focused on the more promising Durban Platform.

Hot air emissions

48. Hot air emissions, also called assigned amount units (AAUs) are a Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. AAUs may be exchanged through emissions trading.[60] DECC stated that the "strict rules" around surplus AAUs needed to be adopted.[61] Sir David King stated in additional written evidence: "The biggest holders of surplus AAUs are from Central and Eastern Europe. If these countries are allowed to carry over their surplus allowances to the second commitment period, it will obviously not incentivise countries to commit to ambitious targets."[62]

49. Conversely it should be noted that such countries will see this as developed countries changing the goalposts to suit themselves. Their economies went through the painful economic transition that followed the 1990s and the emission reductions from these countries are equally real and have been paid for with a heavy social price. Russia's 'hot air' has effectively been removed as it will not sign up to the second commitment period. It cannot carry over its surplus AAUs if it is not in the agreement.[63]

50. We urge caution against the Government's commitment to adopt strict rules around surplus assigned amount units (AAUs) of CO2 and recommend that it the government does not confuse its two aims of agreeing a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and its desire to ensure the maximum net reduction of emissions from the current scenario. To do so will only raise serious questions of equity that may prejudice negotiations.

54   Q 10 Back

55   Q 14 Back

56   Q 94, Q 123 [Prof. Michael Jacobs] Back

57   Q 138 Back

58   Q 94 Back

59   Q 140 Back

60   Glossary, UNFCCC, July 2012, Back

61   Ev 59 Back

62   Footnote to Q 96 Back

63   Q 16 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 25 July 2012