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Want a New Kyoto Protocol? Japan Doesn't

By Dr. Orr Karassin

DURBAN, South Africa (Dec. 5, 2011) — Negotiations at the climate talks here are gaining momentum as the senior representatives of the countries who will take the reins arrive. This may constitute a turning point on the road to an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire in a year.


The protocol obligates industrialized countries to decrease their greenhouse-gas emissions by five percent by the end of next year. The absence of a new obligatory agreement would make it difficult to ensure that countries decrease their emissions of greenhouse gases. Sadly, the leaders of some countries would prefer that outcome. For example, Japan's senior representative here announced that Japan would not support the renewal of the obligations that were included in the Kyoto Protocol, citing the protocol's exclusion of the world's two largest carbon emitters — China and the United States — as well as other significant emitters, such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa. Japan's announcement effectively blocks the adoption of an agreement to extend the validity of the Kyoto Protocol and to renew the carbon-reduction obligations of developed nations. Despite this, the president of the climate-change conference announced that there is hope that the Kyoto Protocol obligations will be renewed for an intermediary period until a new encompassing international agreement can be reached.


While governments fight against a new international climate-change treaty, scientific findings on climate change continue to mount, revealing that the impact of climate change has begun already. Research by the World Meteorological Organization indicates that 2011 is the 10th hottest year since measurements began. Overall, the 12 hottest years on record have occurred over the past 15 years. Additionally, the North Pole's icecap has receded at an unprecedented rate.


This week, more than 20,000 politicians, government representatives, U.N. officials, environmental activists and journalists are flocking to Durban, which has been suffering from the effects of inclement weather. During November, rainfall in Durban was twice as high as the annual average. More than 700 homes were destroyed by torrential rains that led to the deaths of several residents. So Durban is working to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. For example, to help protect against the eventual rise in sea levels, the city is planting vegetation on its beach-front dunes, helping to stop beach erosion. The city also has built breakwaters using sand brought from the cleanup of the Durban harbor.


Also, when the city built a new soccer stadium, it began planting a 2,250-acre forest to offset the carbon released from the stadium's construction. Sixty poor families are raising the saplings and selling them to the municipality. The objective is to plant about 900,000 saplings.


Climate change is already happening. If we are to stave off the worst possible effects, then we need to start taking action now. The city government of Durban understands that; we need federal governments to understand that too. Countries setting aside politics to agree to a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol would be a good start.




Dr. Orr Karassin was a Green Zionist Alliance representative to the board of directors of Jewish National Fund in Israel, and is an advisory-board member of Aytzim: Ecological Judaism.




Orr's other dispatches from Durban are available here:


United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban




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