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December 2007 Issue
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Kyoto not enough to curb climate change


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 recently 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 last month, they address recent criticism in Nature of the Kyoto Protocol.

"(Kyoto) is already resulting in low-carbon investment and emissions reduction, and is a step towards an effective global treaty," they wrote.

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

The authors agreed 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 wrote.

The authors said that a call for more investment in technologies to deal with climate change was 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 said.

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

Story by David Ellis

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