COP17: To what extent has South Africa complied with the Kyoto Protocol?

THE Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh in 2001, and are called the “Marrakesh Accords.”

The Kyoto mechanisms

Under the Treaty, countries must meet their targets primarily through national measures. However, the Kyoto Protocol offers (somewhat controversial) additional means of meeting targets by way of three market-based mechanisms:

The Kyoto mechanisms are:

These mechanisms often criticized in leftist circles, were designed to help stimulate green investment and supposedly “help Parties meet their emission targets in a cost-effective way.” Obviously because of various ideological and developmental concerns, the supplementary mechanisms have received extensive criticism. It will be interesting to see to what extent these mechanisms have succeeded and whether alternatives to Cap-and-Trade, have been implemented or put on the table in the run-up to COP17.

Monitoring emission targets

Under the Protocol, countries’ actual emissions have to be monitored and precise records have to be kept of the “trades carried out” i.e carbon offsets. It will be extreme interest to see how our own Health System measures up and whether or not the Labour Movement, Faith-based organisations and other civil society groupings have implemented the accord, if at all.

Despite the language of Kyoto, framed as it is within the nexus of economic concern of the North, South Africa will find itself sorely pressed to answer questions about emissions targets and the implementation of national mechanisms. The launch of IRP2 this year and the commissioning of the Madupi Power Station are just two examples of the intransigence by the current administration shown towards climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol has a lot going for it, but look at how carbon offsets turn into simple transactions:

Registry systems track and record transactions by all the parties under the mechanisms. The UN Climate Change Secretariat, based in Bonn, Germany, keeps an international “transaction log ” to verify that “transactions are consistent with the rules of the Protocol.”

Reporting is done by Parties by way of submitting annual emission inventories and national reports under the Protocol at regular intervals.

compliance system ensures that Parties are meeting their commitments and helps them to meet their commitments if they have problems doing so.

Unfortunately, Cap-and-Trade i.e –  enterprise driven attempts by the market in the form of large environmental auditing firms catering to big business such as The Carbon Protocol of South Africa — will be first past the post in the discussion at COP17, while government departments, labour movement, faith-based organisations and civil society will be left questioning why we have been left in the starting blocks. Our government has yet to submit a country report in terms of the protocol.

It would appear that “Cap-and-Trade” and the language of business has obscured the framework behind the Kyoto Protocol. There may still be time to develop a national debate around Climate Change and Carbon Auditing, but both government and civil society will be hard pressed to offer solutions that are not market-driven. For example, who gets to do the audits that are needed to determine the cost to the health sector of climate change?

Will the audits be outsourced, or is South African government official “Climate Change Response” enough? How will green auditors themselves be audited and will local government be part of the process that results in a roll-out of climate change technologies ? Questions such as these are going to be asked as South Africa debates Climate Change.

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