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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Beyond Kyoto

Air Date: Week of

The Kyoto Protocol on climate change only went into effect in February, but environmental experts from 190 nations are already looking ahead to what happens after the treaty's first commitment period expires in 2012. Host Steve Curwood talks with Jennifer Morgan, director of the International Climate Change Program for the World Wildlife Fund, about a recent conference on the post-Kyoto world in Bonn, Germany.


CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

The Kyoto Protocol to produce greenhouse gas emissions took effect just three months ago, but already climate experts from a hundred ninety countries are looking ahead to what comes after the treaty’s first commitment period ends in 2012. They met recently in Bonn, Germany and, among other issues, looked at ways to include developing nations such as China and India, as well as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States in any future reduction regime.

The gathering comes amid recent scientific reports documenting that the earth has already begun to absorb more heat than it radiates and that global warming could spin out of control if steps are not taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Jennifer Morgan, who directs the International Climate Change Program for the World Wildlife Fund, attended the conference and joins us now from Bonn. Hello, Jennifer.

MORGAN: Hello.

CURWOOD: Now, Jennifer, this is the first time that Kyoto participants have assembled since, well, I guess you call it a particularly contentious meeting last December in Buenos Aires. What was the tone like at this gathering and what if any concrete action came out of it?

MORGAN: Well, the tone was very constructive and very forward-looking by the vast majority of the delegates here in Bonn. And the concrete action that came out, I guess, is that there is momentum for beginning negotiations um, at the next formal meeting of the protocol and that’s very new. I think that especially from developing countries there was quite an urgency expressed here.

CURWOOD: What are some of the scenarios being discussed that would encourage the commitment of developing countries to some kind of limits on their greenhouse gas emissions in the next phase of the Kyoto agreement?

MORGAN: Well, I think there’s two key elements here. I think one is that developing countries are already doing quite a lot. China, for example, is doing much more than the United States on renewable energy and I think they could be encouraged to do more through the carbon markets that have opened up with the entry into force the Kyoto Protocol. We now have a new currency and if developing countries could get finance it through the market to for example, build much more renewable energy than building new coal plants. They’re interested in that. Brazil said that, Argentina, and Mexico and China said that, so I think that’s one side of it.

The other side, which was very striking, is that these countries presented as I’ve never heard them before the impacts that are happening already in their countries and the fact that climate change is threatening their own development and, therefore, they know that something more needs to happen.

CURWOOD: What are these developing countries calling for over the near term?

MORGAN: Well, over the near term they’re calling for things, um, a mixture of things. The first is, of course, that in order for them to take additional steps and reduce their, their emissions, they need the financial and technical support to do so. These are not countries with high GDPs by any stretch of the imagination. They may be growing, but they’re still developing countries.

The other concrete thing or medium, short-term step was that South Africa and a number of other countries called for a Montreal mandate and what that, basically, means is that in Montréal at the next international climate meeting, countries would formally start negotiating for what comes after 2012 which is the end of the current Kyoto Protocol and would launch formal negotiations. Now, we still have a ways to go to get there, but the fact that they’re opening up that door and opening that door means their commitment will be on the table was a very different conversation then we had in December.

CURWOOD: What would it take to get the U.S. to sign on to mandatory greenhouse gas reductions?

MORGAN: Well, I think that there’s a lot happening in the U.S. right now to help with that outside of the White House and I think so you need to have domestic support for it and you do have that in many parts of the country, in the Northeast of the United States, California, the cities that just signed up from New York to Seattle to the Kyoto target. I think that’s one piece of the puzzle and the companies that are acting on it, but you really need a White House to wake up and understand that climate change is a serious problem that is, the majority of which is caused by humans and everyone from Prime Minister Blair to you know, the head of GE is now saying this. I’m not quite sure what the president needs to hear.

CURWOOD: What’s the next step then for the Kyoto process?

MORGAN: The next step is, there’ll be a series of technical meetings the next couple of weeks, but in the hallways I think people will be talking about what could this launch of negotiations or Montréal mandate look like and then they’ll come back together again in November in Montréal to discuss that and, hopefully, to come together to say, ‘we can’t wait any longer. We need to begin talking and formally negotiating deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts. The time is short and the window for avoiding those impacts is closing quickly.’

CURWOOD: . Jennifer Morgan directs the International Climate Change Program for the World Wildlife Fund in Bonn, Germany. Thanks for taking this time with me today.

MORGAN: Thank you.



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