December 3rd was the Saturday midway through the first 'Meeting of Parties' (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal. The London demo was part of an international day of climate protest with climate demos all around the world from Montreal to Japan. The London march was by far the biggest climate march ever seen in the UK.
Around 200 cyclists started the day off at 9.30am at the Thames Barrier. As they snaked their way through the London streets, thousands of campaigners were massing at Holborn Tube Station. The march eventually got underway at about 1pm. An eclectic mix of individuals and groups ranging from clowns to OAPs from all over the UK marched through the streets of London, stopping at such popular attractions as the Esso Head Offices (thanks to some Tigers!!) and Downing Street. Finally, after being drenched by a torrential downpour, the marchers halted outside the American Embassy on Grosvenor Square.
From London to Montreal
After two weeks of negotiations that ranged from obscure technical details to a dramatic walkout by the USA, December's climate change conference in Montreal was hailed in the end as a success by governments and environmentalists alike. But after years of negotiations and continued failure to meet targets, will December's diplomatic success translate into environmental success?
The conference aimed to reach agreement on the operational details of how the world's governments will achieve the Kyoto Protocol targets agreed to in 1997. It reached agreement on rules for a global market in trading carbon emissions, and achieved a major breakthrough on compliance monitoring and enforcement. The conference had a major focus on helping developing countries, through 'joint implementation' and the 'clean development mechanism' which give wealthy countries incentives to invest in environmentally-friendly projects in developing countries. A fund was also established to help developing countries with the costs of adapting to the impacts of climate change.
The conference also began to look to the more distant future, as negotiators began to discuss how to establish targets past the 2012 time horizon of the Kyoto Protocol. At that point, the USA walked out of the meeting, refusing to consider any suggestion of future binding commitments. However, there were cracks in the USA's position: although the federal government steadfastly opposes national targets, seven American states and nearly 200 cities and towns have pledged to implement Kyoto-style targets themselves within their jurisdictions.
The Kyoto Protocol continues to make progress, but there is still a long way to go. To date very few countries have met their current Kyoto targets. There is more hope of progress now that the Kyoto rulebook and implementing mechanisms have finally been agreed upon – nine long years after the targets themselves were set – but a lot of work is still needed to turn the promises made at the diplomatic table into real action and results. The role of local activists remains very important to hold governments to account and ensure real action.