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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Kyoto Follow-up

Air Date: Week of

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Now that it looks like the Kyoto Protocol will go into effect early next year, climate change talks are under way in New Delhi to discuss how nations will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Host Steve Curwood talks with Kilaparti Ramakrishna of the Woods Hole Research Center.


CURWOOD: Climate diplomacy watchers expect Russia and Canada to ratify the Kyoto Protocol shortly, joining Europe and Japan. And that means countries responsible for 55 percent of the world's industrial carbon dioxide emissions will have joined the treaty, putting it into effect early next year. This week negotiators are meeting in New Delhi to smooth out details of implementation, and to look ahead at how this agreement can evolve to include developing countries.

I am joined now by Kilaparti Ramakrishna. He is an international lawyer and deputy director of the Woods Hole Research Center and is attending the meeting. Tell me, what's the talk in the corridors?

RAMAKRISHNA: The buzz in Delhi is now that we know that the protocol is definitely going to enter into force, how do we ensure that countries meet those goals contained in the protocol?

CURWOOD: How well will these reductions be met and who do you think is going to have the most trouble meeting them?

RAMAKRISHNA: Well, the Kyoto Protocol basically mandated that amongst industrialized countries, they would reduce five percent of the emissions from the 1990 levels. The studies that are available right now are European Union level, but we can go into that and then look at it country by country. And barring Germany and the United Kingdom, I think we're going to have serious trouble with a large number of other countries including Ireland, Spain, Portugal and so on.

CURWOOD: And Japan, for whom the Kyoto Protocol is named?

RAMAKRISHNA: Japan, I think, will be able to meet its commitment, barely. But the society is already extremely efficient compared with either European Union or United States or any of the other industrialized countries, and, therefore, that should be taken into account before Japan is asked to take more commitments.

CURWOOD: How will participating countries meet their carbon reduction commitments?

RAMAKRISHNA: There are a series of measures adopted in the Kyoto Protocol. They have reached agreement on how to use what are called the flexibility mechanisms; emissions trading, joint implementation, and the clean development mechanism. These are mechanisms that an industrialized country with binding legal commitments can work with to reduce emissions in countries that can meet their commitment a lot more easily and take some credit for those activities in meeting their own commitments.

CURWOOD: What about developing countries? Once Kyoto goes into force, how will they participate?

RAMAKRISHNA: Well, when I mentioned about the buzz in the corridors, what I meant is that those coming from the industrialized countries would also be thinking about what can those countries who have become parties through the Kyoto Protocol do to bring the United States back into the fold? And one of the feelings amongst the industrialized countries is that if the developing countries come back to having binding legal commitments, there may be an opportunity to bring the United States.

But even without that, it is clear that any long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize its concentrations in the atmosphere would require participation by all countries.

CURWOOD: What's been the response in Delhi to the news that California is going to go forward essentially with limits on greenhouse gases for its cars, that the New England states are looking at the emissions from power plants? How is that playing?

RAMAKRISHNA: This is playing very well. In fact, the reason why the United States is not completely ostracized in these negotiations is there is a strong feeling in many of these countries that the current trend in the United States of its position against the Kyoto Protocol is temporary; precisely because of what you've just mentioned about actions in different parts of the country in favor of mitigating the climate change.

CURWOOD: Come the end of this session in New Delhi, what do you think we will see?

RAMAKRISHNA: I think we will see, first of all, a lot of excitement that the Kyoto Protocol is going to enter into force. We will see the private sector that is closely following this initiative reaffirmed in their belief that the emissions trading and the joint implementation, and various other schemes that they were trying to talk about, are finally going to take off and then they're going to get money.

We're going to see those developing countries that are aware of what is to come, increasing their pressure, that any idea of they're taking legally binding commitments is contingent upon the industrialized countries meeting the commitments that they have undertaken, going back in time to 1992; which is additional financial support, technology transfer, capacity building, and various other items.

So, at the end of this conference, I think we will clearly see a renewed sense that we are on the right track, but we're going too slowly. Going into the World Summit on Sustainable Development, there was a big question mark whether multilateralism has any role in environmental governments.

This particular agreement, the climate, and the framework in the Kyoto Protocol are really going to pave the way not only that multilateralism matters, but that is the only way in addressing global environmental problems.

CURWOOD: Kilaparti Ramakrishna is ceputy director of the Woods Hole Research Center and an expert in international law. Thank you so much for taking this time.

RAMAKRISHNA: Thank you very much.

[MUSIC: William Orbit, “Water from a Vine” STRANGE CARGO]

CURWOOD: In the far Canadian Arctic on Devon Island, a group of scientists spend the summer studying a place that's more like Mars than anywhere else except Mars. Reporter Robin White visited this remote outpost recently, and kept a journal about his trip.

WHITE: Once I got going today, I went for a walk around town. It's a small, practical place, not much in the way of decoration. It's mostly Inuit, but it was founded in 1947 as a weather center. I kept an eye out for the telling details: two polar bear skins stretched out to dry in the sun, seal skins and bones, lots of them, all kinds, whale bones, reindeer antlers, musk ox skulls, and who knows what else?

CURWOOD: This week, Living on Earth's web site is currently featuring daily installments from Robin White's Arctic adventure. Please visit. It's loe.org. That's loe.org. You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth.




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