The Kyoto climate protocol has not yet come into force, but governments of developed and developing countries alike are moving ahead to control their emissions of the greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Russia is expected to bring the protocol into force with its ratification shortly, but the Netherlands, South Africa and Mexico are taking steps to limit their emissions now.
The Netherlands European Carbon Facility was launched on Friday. The new Facility is aimed at purchasing 10 million tons of greenhouse gas emission reductions from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe for the benefit of the Netherlands, an industrialized country with Kyoto targets to meet.
The Facility was signed into existence by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), both members of the World Bank Group, which will manage the Facility.
As the lowest lying country in Europe, the Netherlands is interested in limiting global warming to prevent catastrophic sea level rise that might result from rapid warming of the polar ice caps.
Low lying Amsterdam may be flooded if global warming causes sea levels to rise. (Photo courtesy Galen Frysinger)
To help the Netherlands meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations, the new Facility will acquire emission reductions that result from projects under the protocol's Joint Implementation mechanism.
Under this mechanism a regulated country, such as the Netherlands, invests in emission reduction or sequestration projects in other countries that also have to meet emissions targets, such as those in Central and Eastern Europe. The investing country earns emission reduction units, which can be accredited on its national emissions target.
The Netherlands is committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent compared to a 1990 baseline by the end of 2012.
Renewable energy, energy efficiency, methane capture, fuel switching, reduction of industrial emissions, or afforestation/reforestation are considered eligible projects for the Netherlands European Carbon Facility.
Peter Woicke, managing director of the World Bank Group and executive vice president of the IFC, said, “This initiative builds on the existing products of the World Bank Group and underscores our commitment to sustainable development by actively promoting the new and evolving market for greenhouse gas emission reductions.”
The developing countries were not given any specific reduction commitments in this Kyoto round that ends in 2012, but many are taking steps to limit emissions on a voluntary basis.
In South Africa, the government has enlisted the help of all departments to deal with the effects of climate change in the country.
Environmental Affairs and Tourism Director-General Chippy Olver said, "For the first time we are adopting an integrated climate change response strategy, which maps out a detailed set of responsibilities for each department."
Olver was speaking at the release of a National Climate Change Response Strategy document, which was approved by cabinet on last Wednesday.
In was the department's first official response to climate change and is the product of many years of interaction between South African scientists and policy makers, and the global environmental community, Olver said.
South Africa is drier in some places than it was 10 years ago. (Photo courtesy National Disaster Management Centre Of South Africa)
South Africa is getting hotter and drier in some places, hotter and wetter in others, said Olver.
This would alter the types of crops South Africa could grow and the places that could be cultivated. Malaria would spread into previously malaria-free areas, biodiversity would be threatened, and the economy would be affected at a local and global level. He said, "Sorry to be so grim, but it's a grim picture."
Because South Africa is considered a developing country and as such does not have a formal emissions reduction target under the protocol, the South African government can utilize the investment options offered by the Clean Development Mechanism.
This mechanism enables developing countries to promote sustainable development by trading carbon credits with developed countries.
The South African government believes that it must do something to avert a crisis. "Within two generations, what we know as the maize triangle will no longer exist. We will need to introduce new crops," he said.
In Mexico, climate change is being taken seriously. Although as a developing country Mexico is not bound by Kyoto Protocol emissions limits, the government is establishing a voluntary national program to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
In August, the Mexican government formalized a new partnership that made it the first country to adopt internationally accepted standards to measure and report business greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Traffic in Mexico City produces greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo courtesy Government of Idaho)
The Mexico GHG Pilot Program was begun August 26 with the signing of an agreement between Mexico's Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
The two year partnership will develop a voluntary reporting platform for Mexican businesses, following the internationally accepted Greenhouse Gas Protocol developed by WRI and WBCSD. Implementation will begin in January 2005 and end by November 30, 2006.
SEMARNAT Secretary Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez said, "This program will provide tools and training to Mexican businesses, helping them to apply accounting approaches to quantify GHG emissions, identify GHG reduction opportunities, and attract new technologies and investments."
"While many industries throughout the world have adopted the GHG Protocol, Mexico is the first country to adopt it," said Jonathan Lash, WRI president.
"In the absence of international leadership in tackling climate change," said Lash, "Mexico has taken the lead in showing what can be done to mitigate global warming."