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Kyoto not enough to curb climate change

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Kyoto was a valiant first attempt to tackle global carbon emissions, and support for the Kyoto Protocol is still needed in the international community, but it will not be enough to make a breakthrough with climate change.

That's according to a letter co-authored by a University of Adelaide climate change expert and published today in the international journal Nature.

Professor Barry Brook, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair (Professor) of Climate Change and Director of the University's Research Institute for Climate Change & Sustainability, has written to Nature with co-authors Professor Tim Flannery (Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, and Division of Environmental and Life Sciences, Macquarie University) and Nick Rowley (former adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and now Director of Kinesis Pty Ltd, a climate change and sustainability consultancy company).

In the letter in Nature published today (22 November) they address recent criticism in Nature of the Kyoto Protocol, saying: "(Kyoto) is already resulting in low-carbon investment and emissions reduction, and is a step towards an effective global treaty."

Professor Brook says: "Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Australia would rightly acknowledge that climate change is an international and non-partisan crisis, but this step should not be seen as an end in itself."

The authors agree that Kyoto in its current form "is not enough to create the low-emissions transformation in the global economy that is required to tackle the climate problem successfully".

However, they say recent criticism of Kyoto overlooks the potential of a 'Kyoto phase 2'.

"Pointing out the treaty's inadequacies is all very well, but the harder and more vital job is building on it to achieve a more effective and adequate one," they write.

The authors say that a call for more investment in technologies to deal with climate change is right, "but it doesn't address the important question of how to achieve it".

"It takes 20 years for new technologies to get to market - time we do not have. What we need are tools (such as a cost for carbon through market incentives and emissions trading) that facilitate rapid uptake of existing clean technologies," the letter says.

"The market is awash with investment funds - good policy is needed to unlock them."

The authors have warned against "another decade of delay, diplomatic wrangling and nationalistic plea bargains while the climate system moves towards catastrophic tipping points".

"As Winston Churchill said: 'It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required.'"

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