Clinging to the Kyoto Protocol

From Zhang Wei, Shanghai Finance University

Let me start with an interesting analogy: Yu Jie, head of Renewable Energy for Greenpeace China attended the tenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She said: “The Kyoto Protocol is like a tree in a flood.” In 1998 China was hit by huge floods, and one child clung to a tree for nine hours before being rescued. Like the floods, the world is being hit by repeated natural disasters and everyone wants to cling to a tree – this tree is the Kyoto Protocol, and we must not fall out of it.

From 1997’s meeting of parties to the UNFCCC in Kyoto to the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, to the Bali roadmap in 2007 … Despite fierce debate during the search for consensus, each time we have seen breakthroughs in emission targets or emission reduction methods. It is like a football game – every pass is building up to a shot on goal. On November 6 this year, the last round of talks before Copenhagen drew to a close in Barcelona. UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer said that the talks had made progress on adaptation to climate change, technical cooperation and reduction in emissions through forest preservation; but two key issues, mid-term targets for developed nations and funds to assist developing nations, had not been resolved.

China, in the midst of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, is already potentially the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and will face ever increasing international pressure. In fact, China has already made many commitments, acted to make major reductions in domestic emissions, is cooperating in international emission reductions, and is actively advocating low-impact, climate-friendly lifestyles. Chairman Hu Jintao’s speech at the UN climate summit on September 22 was clearly a voluntary act based on domestic sustainable development goals.