Global celebrations as Kyoto Protocol comes into force

Greenpeace marks the day around the world

Press release - 2005-02-16
Young Greenpeace volunteers in Beijing helped launch a series of events around the world today, welcoming the dawn of a new era for climate protection. The Kyoto Protocol - the global agreement that lays the ground for the international community to take the first steps in combating climate change - is now law.

Greenpeace activists demonstrate their support of the Kyoto protocol in Beijing, near the Forbidden city in Beijing February 16, 2005. Greenpeace offices around the world celebrate the coming into force of the protocol today. After more than ten years of protracted negotiations, thirty five industrialised countries along with the European Community are now legally bound to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions.

Young Greenpeace volunteers in Beijing helped launch a series of events around the world today, welcoming the dawn of a new era for climate protection. The Kyoto Protocol - the global agreement that lays the ground for the international community to take the first steps in combating climate change - is now law.

As dawn broke in Beijing, the Greenpeace volunteers gave a speech from the top of Jingshan Hill, overlooking the Forbidden City. They explained the need for a global switch to clean renewable energy, such as wind power, and energy efficiency. They called on global leaders to support China's efforts to face the challenge of climate change.

Later at the historic lake Houhai the volunteers invited Beijing citizens to sign a giant open letter to Kofi Annan the Secretary General of the United Nations, asking him to push for global action on climate change and to support China's drive for clean energy. Giving away good-luck windmills to the public, Greenpeace volunteers explained the impacts of climate change and the significance of the Kyoto protocol. One volunteer dressed up as a giant polar bear to call attention to the plight of these animals that are expected to be among the first species made extinct by global warming.

"This is an historic moment in climate protection", said Yu Jie of Greenpeace China. "But it took more than ten years to get here. We have so little time to make the treaty work. Every new piece of evidence on global warming reinforces the urgency of the situation - climate change is already harming us now. Kyoto sets the framework, now the world must boldly take the steps needed to avert climate catastrophe."

Past emissions of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide - CO2) mean the world cannot avoid an increase of average global temperature of 1.3ºC higher than pre-industrial levels. If the average temperature rises by 2ºC, experts say the impacts of climate change will be catastrophic. To stay below 2ºC, industrialized countries such as the EU must go far beyond the current Kyoto Protocol requirements and reduce emissions by at least 30% from 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by the 2050s.

China signed the Protocol in 1998 and ratified in 2002. Now with ratification by Russia last November the Protocol comes into force today. At present, as a developing country, China has no binding target for emissions reduction under the treaty. However the Chinese government's support of the Protocol and domestic actions show their recognition of the scale of the problem and their will to act.

Among domestic measures to help China's shift to clean energy is the anticipated Renewable Energy Promotion Law. China's renewable energy resources are enormous and the development of clean energy such as wind power is seen as a crucial way for China to meet its growing energy needs more sustainably. The Kyoto Protocol includes mechanisms for developed countries like the EU to support developing countries such as China in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The tools for keeping climate change under control, such as renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures, are developed and ready to use," said Yu Jie. "Kyoto is the signal to governments and industry - it's time to throw real weight behind these solutions. Developed countries like the EU must support China's efforts to clean up its energy supply. The clean energy revolution can begin here."

In stark contrast to China's position, the US and Australia continue to deny the true extent of the climate threat and refuse to act. American and Australian industries are in danger of being left behind as China, Europe and Japan reap the financial and social benefits of being first to fully develop clean technologies like wind power.

Celebrations for the Protocol began in the city of Kyoto itself where a hot air balloon above the temples and shrines proclaimed "Kyoto: new dawn for the climate". Activities continued in cities world-wide including Beijing, Bonn, Moscow, Madrid, Helsinki, Sydney, Bangalore, Hong Kong and Suva.

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