Birmingham MP Clare Short joined activists and around a hundred local people for a public meeting at Carrs Lane Church Centre on 3rd February ahead of the coming in to force of the Kyoto Protocol and a major national demonstration, the 'Kyoto Climate March', organised by Campaign Against Climate Change, the Green Party and Globalise Resistance.

Sharing a platform with Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Campaign Against Climate Change, Birmingham Green Party and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Clare called on the international community to support and strengthen Kyoto. "Climate change is a major threat to the future for people across the world", she said. "The poor will suffer most, but all countries will be affected. Urgent action is needed."

"People are concerned at what’s taking place", the Ladywood MP told the Birmingham Evening Mail. "It’s right to stir them up with a sense of injustice and anger but you don’t get transformation unless people think something better is possible."

The Kyoto Climate March itself was in the news, billed as part of a wave of international demonstrations around the world, well before the 500 marchers set off from Lincoln's Inn Fields in London on 12th February. The demo kicked off when a 30-40-strong band of cyclists gathered at, appropriately enough, the Thames Barrier. The Barrier is being used more and more often with every passing year and may even have to be rebuilt and enlarged in 20 or 30 years.

Protesters marched to the US and Australian embassies carrying 141 national flags, representing all the current signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, in a bid to expose the isolation of these two countries, the only major developed nations not to have ratified Kyoto. President George W. Bush refused to ratify Kyoto in 2001 and the Senate unanimously rejected the treaty in a 1997 vote. The United States is responsible for a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, yet it only has around 4 per cent of the world's population. The Bush administration's plan to reduce US emissions 'intensity' by 18 per cent by 2012 overlooks the fact that, according to the plan, absolute emissions will be up 32 per cent by then.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty designed to abate dangerous climate change by reducing human emissions of greenhouse gases by about 5 per cent until 2012. The treaty became legally binding on the participating countries on 16th February 2005 and negotiations on deeper emissions cuts start in earnest later in the year.

Needless to say, ten years of political wrangling have meant that Kyoto doesn't go nearly far enough in committing the industrialised countries to cut their pollution. The UK's obligations under the Protocol include reducing all greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But despite government promises, carbon dioxide emissions have risen since Labour came to power in 1997. Friends of the Earth wants Prime Minister Tony Blair to urgently review government policies to see where cuts in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved, and commit the UK to year-on-year emissions reductions.

Each of us can do our bit to reduce our contribution to climate change, for example by saving energy, buying green electricity, and by driving and flying less, but without co-ordinated international action to control greenhouse gas pollution our individual efforts will be in vain. That's what makes Kyoto so important and why it must be made to work, and soon.

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