No celebrations as Kyoto Protocol turns 10

By Eve Savory, CBCNews.ca

You can cut the cake, blow out the candles, and sing the song, but all the theatre in the world couldn’t make this birthday a celebratory occasion. The Kyoto Protocol turned 10today, and even the United Nations reports that the birthday bash in Bali was filled more with regret than joy.

“The spirit of Kyoto is dying,” Kimiko Hirata of one Japanese environmental group told Nature.

And Ichiro Kamoshita, the Japanese Environment Minister who cut the 1.8 metre cake to mark the occasion, said of the climate change agreement: "It's only 10 years old ... and we have worked hard to raise a child. Still, at the age of 10, children can be quite difficult, and so the Kyoto Protocol too."

Ten years ago in Kyoto,Japan, the world’s nations agreed the major industrialized countries would cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 per cent in the period between 2008 and 2012.

It’s been an agreement more honoured – or dishonoured - in the breach. The US, which signed Kyoto, refused to ratify it. So did Australia.

Canada ratified, promising to cut emissions by 6 per cent. Its emissions have risen some 33 per cent.

But the birthday child did get one shiny new gift. Australia’s new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has signed the ratification papers. He’ll present them to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, on Wednesday. That’s the day high-level talks begin to decide what happens after 2012.

The delegates cheered and applauded Australia last week when it announced it was ratifying Kyoto, but that may have been hasty. That’s because Australia is still part of the anti-Kyoto club in one way.

It is joining the U.S., Canada and Japan in opposing part of the draft declaration which suggests cutting greenhouse gas emissions between 25 and 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020.