Things aren’t looking very good for the United Nations’ upcoming climate summit this month. Not only are major world leaders opting not to attend the conference, but only a handful of countries have formally backed an extension to the world’s only legally binding climate agreement.
In December 2012, 144 countries agreed to extend the expiring Kyoto Protocol after climate negotiations broke down and no one could hash out an agreement to replace the 1990s climate treaty. The 144 countries backing the extension were parties to the original treaty.
The bad news for the U.N. and environmentalists is that only eleven of the 144 countries have formally recognized the extension of Kyoto, according to the publication Responding to Climate Change (RTCC).
The only countries to formally back Kyoto’s extension are Bangladesh, Barbados, China, Honduras, Kenya, Mauritius, Micronesia, Monaco, Norway, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. None of the European Union states have formally backed Kyoto, neither has the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand or Russia.
Canada opted out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2011. Russia, New Zealand and Japan followed by not backing Kyoto’s extension in 2012 over concerns that not binding developing countries (like China and India) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions would render cuts from first world countries useless.
Indeed, Kyoto’s impact has been negligible as carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise — but all while global temperatures have stayed flat and even cooled slightly since Kyoto was ratified in 1997.
The U.N. has plans to rectify the situation by calling on countries that have not yet approved the Kyoto extension to give the international body “information on the nature and timing of such steps” being taken to approve the agreement.
The Kyoto extension binds countries to cut emissions until 2020. By that time, the U.N. hopes there will be a more aggressive climate agreement to replace Kyoto. But RTCC notes that until all 144 countries formally back Kyoto’s extension, it will not become binding.
The news comes as President Barack Obama plans on attending the U.N.’s climate summit in New York City later this month at the behest of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The U.N. hopes the conference will allow countries to move forward with negotiations for another agreement.
But the Obama administration reportedly has no plans to offer up a legally binding agreement — instead, the White House has plans to put forward a series of domestic policies countries can enact to fight global warming.
The New York Times reports the White House looks to “name and shame” countries into making “legally binding” emissions cuts — a plan Obama doesn’t need to get ratified by Congress.
“There’s a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse,” Laurence Tubiana, France’s U.N. climate ambassador, told the Times. “There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate.”
Obama’s climate proposals have sparked backlash from Republicans and some Democrats who see this as a way to avoid a political battle in the Senate which could derail yet another climate treaty.
“The Senate will not ratify a treaty that binds the United States to a regulatory body at the United Nations, and we will continue to fight the president’s economy-crushing domestic greenhouse gas regulations,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe said in a statement.
“Our friends in the developing world need to understand that President Obama’s climate regulations are limiting their prosperity,” Inhofe added. “I want to be in the business of helping the poor climb out of poverty, but the president is intent on doubling down on global warming policies that have already demonstrated that they do more harm than good.”
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