November 18, 2006
The Conference in Nairobi came to an end at around nine o’clock on Friday evening. Rumors had been circulating in the corridors that there was disagreement on Article 9 (the article that mandates a review of the protocol and under which developing countries could potentially take on new commitments).
According to the rumors, China and Saudi Arabia weren’t on board for a review to take place in 2008, that they would have preferred 2010, or no date at all. Environmental groups at the conference had been pushing for a review to begin at Nairobi, with the launch of a review process that would eventually become more linked to the work of developed countries to take on new commitments.
To everyone’s relief, the various documents that had been negotiated over the course of the conference were gaveled through without much objection.
I think some were given a scare when the Russian delegation, who had held up the conference in Montreal last year until six in the morning, gave us a brief scare when it stated that that it’s proposal for countries to voluntarily take on targets had not been given the attention it deserved. But the Russian negotiator concluded by saying that for the sake of compromise they would not object and let things pass.
I think many in the room breathed a sigh of relief with that concluding comment.
The conference achieved some moderate outcomes. Developed countries agreed to a work program steering them towards greater emissions reductions, and acknowledged that in order to stabilize carbon pollution, global emissions would have to be cut by fifty percent.
This is an important recognition; however one point of concern is that there is no date set when these negotiations must be concluded. This means that negotiations could go on indefinitely.
It is clear that the urgency of this problem is not reflected in the pace of the negotiations.
Kofi Annan spoke of a “frightening lack of leadership” at this conference, and Canada certainly was guilty of this. The fact that Canada has abandoned its Kyoto targets has seriously compromised Canada’s credibility in these negotiations and on the world forum in general.
After the conference, Minister Ambrose spoke about Kyoto in a positive way, and when asked whether her position on Kyoto had changed, she spoke about having learned much. However, the fact that Minister Ambrose has “learned” about the Kyoto protocol and its mechanisms does not seem to be reflected in her government’s policy.
The Clean Air Act continues to be the government’s “solution” (or lack thereof) to climate change. This piece of legislation is unacceptable, as it will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If, as some people speculate, Minister Ambrose recognizes the immense value of the Kyoto protocol, then she should stand up in Cabinet and urge her government to recommit to Canada’s targets and deploy renewable technology across Canada.
Emilie Moorhouse is Sierra Club of Canada's Atmosphere and Energy