At the third conference of the Parties, in Kyoto (Japan), the parties at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change agreed on a text implementing the goal of the Rio Convention of 1992. This text called the Kyoto Protocol encourages the parties to reduce their emissions by at least 5% by the end of the first commitment period (in 2012). However, this protocol indicates that just the countries in the Annex I have to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Annex I parties includes industrialised (or developed countries) and the countries in transition to a market economy (former members of the Soviet Union).
After a long process of ratification, the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2007. The first commitment started on the 1st of January 2008 and will end on the 31st of December 2012.The parties don’t yet know what will happen with the protocol and to the emission reductions after this date.
In Montreal in 2005, the parties decided to set up a working group that should work to find an agreement on a new commitment period, in accordance with the article 3.9 of the Kyoto Protocol. The working group was named the “Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of the Annex I parties under the Kyoto Protocol” (AWG-KP). The article 3.9 of the protocol indeed indicates that the parties have to start negotiating a new commitment period seven years before the end of the first one.
Even after five years of negotiations, the parties are not able to reach the necessary agreement to define the new commitment period that will start on the 1st of January 2013.
At the moment, three major parties (and major emitters) Russia, Japan and Canada do not really want to agree on a new period of commitments. The main argument of these countries is considering that the USA, and the major emitters (e.g. China, India, or Brazil) are not parties of the protocol (and hence, do not have to reduce their emissions), they do not want to carry the global climate burden alone. But other countries and groups such as Norway and the European Union push to get this new commitment period, even if there is no real agreement concerning the length of this new period: 5 or 8 years. Some groups and especially the Alliance of the Small Island States (AOSIS) want to define a short period in order to assess and review the targets as soon as possible after the publication of the fifth IPCC Assessment Report that will give the “latest science available”. For the developed countries, a longer period is more adequate because it would give more stability and predictability for the business sector.
The Conference of Cancun will have to solve the problem of the new commitment period, and the parties know that the success or the failure of this COP16 will be principally judged in light of this outcome on the Kyoto Protocol. Just 8 days left, it is not too late to save the Protocol.