The heat is on to tackle global warming, but can Kyoto deliver?
IT has been hailed as the treaty which would help to save the world from the horrors of global warming and lead the way to a sustainable industrial future.
But as the Kyoto protocol comes into effect today, backed by 141 countries, the agreement is already coming apart at the seams.
For many, the absence of the world’s largest polluter, the United States, and the world’s fastest growing carbon dioxide polluters, China and India, leaves the Kyoto agreement mortally wounded.
Without their agreement to cut their polluting greenhouse gasses to 5 per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, it is difficult to see how the agreement can meet its aims.
More worryingly, some of the countries backing the pact seem to be lacking in the enthusiasm needed to deliver on their commitment, expressing concern about what conforming to the agreement will mean for their economy and domestic industry.
In the face of estimates putting the cost to the world economy at 150 billion each year, many nations, including Spain, Portugal and Ireland, are far above their targets for cuts in emissions of such gases.
Britain - one of the Kyoto agreement’s most vocal supporters - is now in a legal dispute with the European Commission over its emissions targets and Italy is fretting about the cost.
Even the United Nations, the treaty’s most vehement advocate, has added its voice to a growing band of environment campaigners and NGOs who say it must be viewed as only the tiny first step to preventing a climatological disaster.
Amid the footdragging, it is becoming increasingly clear that Kyoto is akin to using a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.
With the increasing incidence of floods, glacier and polar meltdowns, raging storms, hurricanes and cyclones, droughts and bush fires, pressure is growing for more drastic action.
1998 was the warmest year since surface records began in the 1860s, followed by 2002 and 2003.
Neela Bettridge, the director of the sustainable development think tank Article 13, said: "There is a real opportunity in 2005 to break the cycle in the potentially disastrous runaway effects of climate change. The issue will require huge leadership and powers of persuasion from business, government and civil society.
"The increased dominance of China and India as engines of world growth, as well as post-Kyoto discussions, are critical issues that need to be factored in, as does the non-participation of the US in the agreement."
Klaus Toepfer, the head of the UN’s environment programme, said: "We will have to do more to fight this rapid increase in temperature.
"Kyoto is, without doubt, only the first step. If you calculate the cost of acting against the cost of not acting, you will see this is the best return on investment you ever had."
The Kyoto agreement will cut a projected rise in temperature by just 0.1 per cent (0.2F) by 2100, according to UN projections.
Compared to forecasts by a UN climate panel of an overall rise of between 1.4 and 5.8C by 2100, it is clear just how short Kyoto falls, if such predictions are correct. As a result, taking action will, as time moves on, become more expensive.
Research from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) shows that the UK needs to go much further and reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 if it is to have any impact and prevent more extreme weather events of the type that all but swept away the village of Boscastle and caused landslides in Glen Ogle and Dunkeld last year.
There are signs, though, that the public is willing to change. Research by the pollsters ICM revealed that 85 per cent of Britons would be prepared to change the way they live in order to lessen the impact of global warming.
Whatever the next step, the first thing that must be done is to bring Washington back on side for any meaningful action to take place after Kyoto expires in 2012.
Bo Kjellen, a researcher at the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre, a leading institution for climate change research, said: "Kyoto will not work unless the US is included after 2012. If it is exempted, countries like India and China will feel little incentive to sign up, and that would be disastrous."
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east