The Kyoto Protocol climate pact is set to expire in 2012, and thus far there is no succession treaty in sight. What will happen if a new or updated treaty is not prepared in time?
In order to implement a new round of emissions targets in the existing Kyoto framework, three-quarters of all parties to the Protocol, or 143 countries, must agree. Before each country ratifies the treaty, extensive domestic negotiations and review commonly take place – “a process that may involve a considerable amount of time,” according to the U.N. In light of these concerns, the United Nations has released for the first time a Kyoto “Plan B” set of contingency options should a new global climate deal fail to materialize.
A gap in coverage between Kyoto’s 2012 expiration date and when a replacement treaty might take effect could be very costly to the $20.6 billion global carbon trade. The value of these traded emissions credits rests on stipulations as determined in the Kyoto Protocol.
To avoid this time gap, one facet of the U.N.’s “Plan B” would consider reducing the number of countries required to approve any proposals for new targets or proposals to extend the current caps through to 2013 or 2014, when climate negotiators hope to secure a more comprehensive update to the treaty.
After a disappointing showing in Copenhagen this past December, climate negotiators are looking forward to making progress in their third year of talks. The next major conference will begin this November in Cancun, Mexico.