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2009 is a key year for climate change, since in December a decision will be made which will shape the global framework that will govern the commitments assumed by countries to fight against this important problem. At the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, an agreement will be defined that will replace the Kyoto Protocol once the latter expires at the end of 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol was the fist step in a multilateral fight to confront the problem of global warming. Since its beginning, the environmental organizations felt that the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 5.2% was insufficient in developed countries from 2008-2012, regarding those recorded in 1990. However, this gamble, although not yet sufficiently ambitious, marked the beginning of the multilateral battle against climate change, giving priority to initiating the process and facilitating the adherence of the largest possible number of countries.  Unfortunately, the process was not easy, and took 8 years to ratify and come into effect (from 1997 to 2005). In addition, there was also opposition by the Bush administration, which prioritized the short term interests of oil companies instead of joining the rest of the world in fighting this important problem, even though the USA is the country with the highest emissions of GHGs which cause climate change.

© WWF Bolivia
Earth Hour
© WWF Bolivia


Any international agreement dealing with the climate change problem must be based on the principle of shared, yet differentiated, responsibility, since not all countries have the same degree of responsibility in causing the problem, or the technological or economic possibilities of confronting it. For this reason, the Kyoto Protocol contemplates a classification of countries in two categories: industrialized, with quantifiable commitments in reduction of emissions, and countries that are developing and did not acquire these commitments.

The first category does not have a uniform distribution of reduction of emissions. Some countries, such as Germany, have reductions of -21% for its emissions in 2008-2012 (in relation to 1990 levels), while others, such as Spain, are allowed to increase their emissions by 15% above those recorded in 1990.

WWF feels that the Kyoto Protocol was a first step in the right direction to coordinate efforts toward stopping and reversing greenhouse gas emissions.

We also consider that the commitment to reduce emissions was insufficient, as we condemned at that time, since much more ambitious reductions and a change in the energy model were needed in order to ensure that there would not be an increase above 2ºC regarding pre-industrial temperatures, and thus avoid important ecological, economic and social consequences.

There are still three more years before the Kyoto Protocol expires, and it is necessary to finalize the foundation upon which a new agreement will be based in order to provide continuity as of 2013. It is necessary that by the end of 2009 the new protocol is finished, so that it can be approved by the countries and there should be no lapse between the current protocol and the new one. Thus the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen is crucial, and its forthcoming agreement will be the indicator if countries are giving the battle against climate change the priority and importance it requires to confront the problem in a decided and urgent manner to avoid the worse impacts. If not, we will be doomed to face these.

The framework under which these negotiations take places is mixed, since the new administration and leadership in the USA introduces a sense of hope, which up until now had been one of the main obstacles in the international fight against climate change. The Obama administration has declared its willingness to approach the problem and work in a coordinated manner with other countries.

On the other hand, the current economic-financial crisis directs us to decidedly promote real sustainable development based on innovation, efficiency and solidarity.

We have very little time to react; all of the research tells us that, the more we delay undertaking steps, the economic, social and environmental costs will be greater.

The report produced by Nicholas Stern in October 2006 confirms that the costs for stabilization are important and feasible, and that a delay increases the danger and cost. Inaction regarding climate change is calculated between 5% to 20% of the annual global GDP, while taking action could mean limiting this cost to 1% annually. It also confirms the existence of various options to reduce emissions, but firm robust political action is lacking. The report points out the main options: placing a price on carbon, transferring technology, removing barriers regarding efficient energy, reducing deforestation and raising awareness.

WWF considers the fight against climate change as a huge, urgent and necessary challenge. It is an opportunity to stimulate economic growth and create millions of jobs, protect forests and avoid catastrophic impacts. We ask those politicians representing us to have the will and sufficient courage to take on this battle, which is shared by everyone. (Source: