Friday, December 07, 2012

Japan, Doha, and other dreams

Japan was once the host and most ardent support of the Kyoto Protocol - the closest thing the world has come to a real agreement as to how and when to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When historic international agreement was reached in Kyoto in 1990 Japan led the world with a pledge to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 25% before 2020. With 30% of its electricity being supplied by nuclear energy and more plants being constructed, it seemed achievable.

Yet that dream seemed far in the past when on Wednesday Japan was awarded the 'Second Fossil Award' by the international environment organization The Climate Action Network for failing even to mention its own Kyoto Protocol pledges in its speech at the Doha Climate Change Conference.

Japan had earlier been awarded 'First Place Fossil Award' on the opening day of the conference for its lack of effort against global warming.

The dismal effort on the part of Japan has served to undermine an already fragile conference. Among the conference's mild ambitions was to gain international agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol, as the original pledge made by 40 countries- to reduce greenhouse emissions by 5.2% below 1990 levels between 2008-2012 - is in no danger of actually being realised.

Now it looks as if even that modest goal -of extending the Kyoto Protocol - is unikely to be realised.

Few of the developed countries back the extension. The United States didn't even ratify it in 1990, arguing that it was useless to do so when developing countries such as China and India were exempt.

Some might argue that that refusal alone rendered the Kyoto Protocol an empty agreement, but hey, only a cynic would say that right?

Russia, Japan and Canada are pulling out, while major developing countries (including China, now the world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions) still have no binding targets.

That leaves, um, well, mainly Australia and the European Union.

The conference has become so ineffective that, in a massive display of unintended irony, Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace, called on conference delegates to prevent Doha becoming a disaster, saying 'This has been almost a laughable exercise.'

Perhaps Kumi was unable to see the link between Japan's failure at the conference and the mothballing of its 54 nuclear power plants? Perhaps Kumi believes that the risk of, um, well, nothing really, outweighs the benefit of having a Japan able to pursue a greenhouse emissisons reduction target of 25%.

That must be an extraordinary level of doublethink.

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