Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Kyoto Protocol Extension Receives Mixed Reviews
Nearly 200 countries have agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty intended to limit the greenhouse gas (GHG) output of countries around the world. The updated treaty, agreed upon at the COP 18 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, extends the Protocol until 2020.
Immediately after the treaty was announced, critics attacked it as insufficient to address the severity of the climate crisis, noting that the new deal only requires GHG emission cuts for Europe and Australia, whose combined share of world emissions amounts to less than 15 percent.
"Climate change is happening much, much faster than one would understand," said Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General, during the negotiations in Doha. "The science has plainly made it clear: it is the human beings' behavior which caused climate change, therefore the solution must come from us."
A report released by Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) before the agreement showed that global annual investment to curb climate change rose to approximately $364 billion in 2010/2011.
While this figure is not insignificant, CPI was quick to note that the investment figures pale in comparison to the approximately $1 trillion annual investment that the International Energy Agency estimates is needed to adequately discourage growth in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
"The fact that the public policies and incentives are starting to unlock private investment is good news for policymakers dealing with limited budgets," said Director of CPI Europe Barbara Buchner, one of the principal authors of the report.
The final text of the new climate agreement "encourages" rich nations to spend a relatively paltry $10 billion annually until 2020 to combat climate change.
"The level of available investment still falls far short of the total amount needed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius," continued Ms. Buchner. "We must focus on the policies that are working and act quickly to scale those up around the world."
Condemnation of the Protocol extension was not universal, however. Charles Stephenson, CEO of Advanced Global Trading, a Dubai-based sustainable investment group, was optimistic about the results from the talks.
"The news the Kyoto Protocol is continuing - or the 'second wave' - has been the culmination of seven years of hard work and it's important news for the participating countries who have made vast collective efforts to reduce global warming," said Mr. Stephenson, who did note his disappointment that China and the United States, the world's largest emitters, would not be involved in the treaty.
In the midst of these announcements, the climate change denial group Friends of Science derided the entire COP 18 process. Friends of Science claims that the sun, rather than the burning of fossil fuels, is the major driver of climate change despite overwhelming scientific consensus to the contrary.
"Human beings are capable of magnificent scientific and technological accomplishments," said Len Maier, president of the self-styled "climate science critical review organization." "We should be inspiring our youth to stand on the shoulders of the giants of innovation - but most important we must dismantle this 'climate change crisis cult' and stop wasting resources on this green-wash and rent-seeking."