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12 December 2007updated 24 Sep 2015 11:16am

Happy 10th birthday Kyoto

As people at the Bali conference sing 'happy birthday dear Kyoto' Peter Hardstaff reports on America

By Peter Hardstaff

Last night I ended up at a ‘party’ to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol and had the curious experience of hearing a bunch of delegates singing ‘happy birthday’ to the climate change treaty.

Speeches were made with several would-be orators making rather laboured attempts to compare Kyoto to the story of a growing baby.

It’s a curious choice because, if Kyoto were a infant, when she was born it was without all of her limbs – Australia and the US were missing; aviation and shipping had been omitted to name just a few of her deformities.

Despite this fragility, she has abused (missed targets), misused (dodgy carbon-trading projects) and, in some cases, just plain ignored.

Cut to the present day and we find Kyoto, battered and bruised, on a hospital operating table. Part of an arm, (Australia) is sewn on. But the child is still in critical condition as dozens of doctors are row over how best to proceed with her treatment.

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Some want to get the arm and leg on, give the kid a massive shot of adrenaline (extra commitments from rich countries + aid and technology transfer) and send her on her way.

Others want to ignore the leg operation entirely and are arguing that the original arm can be properly attached but Kyoto can only be saved if a whole new arm (binding commitments for big developing countries) is also sewn on. Trouble is, attaching a third arm will effectively create a different person.

The argument between the doctors is threatening to break into a full-blown fight. Kyoto is lying on the operating table. Her breathing shortens. Her pulse becomes more erratic. Will the doctors stop fighting? Will they agree on the right operation? Can the child be kept alive?

Ok, I got a bit carried away with the analogy. As for what is actually happening, the politics is ramping up. Conversations in the corridors reveal that the US is playing a blocking game; amongst other things undermining progressive moves to establish targets and create a meaningful process to transfer technology to poor countries.

I’ve heard that in the international trade talks at the WTO, when it comes to the crunch, Ministers and Heads of State start working the phones in order to persuade others to shift their positions. Well, the crunch is here; we now have less than three days to keep this thing not only alive but in a fit enough state to stand a chance of becoming a fully fledged climate deal. So, Hilary Benn, Gordon Brown; it’s time to get on the blower and find out if our relationship with the US administration really is all that ‘special’.

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