15 February 2006 – Governments are failing to take the action needed to reach legally binding targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, Friends of the Earth International said ahead of the February 16 first anniversary of this global treaty on climate change [1].

Friends of the Earth International
15 February, 2006

Industrialized countries that have ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol can still reach their greenhouse gas emissions targets, but data from these countries reveal that so far many are failing to bring carbon emissions under control [2] – with emissions in Italy, Canada, and Austria all increasing since 1990. UK emissions are also now rising – putting the UK’s Kyoto commitments in jeopardy.

Friends of the Earth warned that existing emission targets under the treaty are insufficient to avoid dangerous runaway climate change, with far deeper cuts required. But despite dramatic scientific warnings and substantial evidence that climate change is happening faster than previously predicted, global emissions are still on the rise [3].

“Countries are not on track to meet even their modest Kyoto targets, despite growing recognition that we are already facing dramatic consequences as a result of climate change. If we have any hope of keeping temperature increases under control while we still have time, governments around the world must do more to improve energy efficiency, clean up our use of fossil fuels and invest more in sustainable, safe renewable’s,” said Friends of the Earth International climate change campaigner Catherine Pearce.

Kyoto’s first anniversary comes at a crucial time with talks due to start on the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol, post 2012. The Montreal declaration strengthened international resolve to continue legally binding targets under Kyoto, despite efforts from the US Administration to block progress. Talks later this year will consider further emission reductions for the industrialized world, as well as potential action to limit growing emissions from some of the rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India.

Friends of the Earth believes that Western countries which have enjoyed economic growth through the burning of fossil fuels (and have therefore contributed  most to climate change), must help finance low carbon development in the south, and phase out public financing of fossil fuels and into cleaner energies.

“One year on from Kyoto coming into force, we must look to a stronger improved Kyoto after 2012. But the strength of the post 2012 climate regime will inevitably depend on how much progress has already been made. Industrialized countries must show greater leadership and provide more support so that developing countries can follow suit,” added Catherine Pearce.

Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International (in London) Tel: +44 (0)7811 283 641 or direct line: +44 (0)20 7566 1723 or email catp@foe.co.uk
Jan Kowalzig, Climate Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe (in Brussels) Tel: +32-2-5426102 or email jan.kowalzig@foeeurope.org
Roque Pedace in Argentina: Tel: + 54-1146290386 or email rqpedacear@yahoo.com.ar

[1] The Kyoto Protocol was agreed in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997. This “action plan” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force the 16th February 2005. The Protocol sets legally binding limits on the greenhouse gas emissions for 39 industrialised countries that pledged to cut their annual average greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 to 2012 to about 5% below 1990 levels. In1997, the EU with its then 15 Member States accepted an overall reduction target of minus 8%. A total of 160 Parties to the Protocol have now ratified the treaty. The text of the Protocol is available at http://www.unfccc.int

[2] Score card of key countries:
EU – 15 total: Kyoto target -8% (2003 -1.7%)
Germany – Kyoto target -21% (2003 -18.5%)
Italy – Kyoto target -6.5% (2003 +11.6%)
UK – Kyoto target -12.5% (2004 -14.6%)
Japan – Kyoto target -6% (2004 +7.4%)
Canada – Kyoto target -6% (2003 +24%)

[3] Recent scientific reports suggest that in order to achieve the maximum 2°C temperature rise target with reasonable certainty, concentration levels must peak below 500 ppm and then return below 400ppm, which would require global CO2 cuts of 50% by 2050. Industrialised countries would have to cut their CO2 emissions by 80%. In contrast, a concentration of 550ppm, a figure that has been used as a rule-of-thumb in the past, has a 68% to 99% chance of exceeding the 2°C threshold. See: Malte Meinshausen, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich: “On the Risk to Overshoot 2°C”;
Two degrees centigrade global average warming would threaten many tens of millions of people with increased risk of hunger, hundreds of millions with increased malaria risk, millions with increased flooding and billions with increased risk of water shortage.(Ref: Hare, B (2003) “Assessment of Knowledge on Impacts of Climate Change – Contribution to the Specification of Art. 2 of the UNFCCC: Impacts on Ecosystems, Food Production, Water and Socioeconomic System” online and M Parry, N Arnell, T McMichael, R Nicholls, P Martens, S Kovats, M Livermore, C Rosenzweig,A).

FURTHER REPORTS on climate change impacts:
IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) Climate Change 2001
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change was an international scientific conference held in Exeter in the UK in February 2005, under the UK Presidency of the G8. The Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change book consolidates the scientific findings of the conference and gives an account of the most recent developments on critical thresholds and key vulnerabilities of the climate system, impacts on human and natural systems, emission pathways and technological options of meeting different stabilisation levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.