Global environmental challenges
The “Copenhagen Protocol” on global warming?
Will the next international deal for combating climate change be called the “Copenhagen Protocol”, consigning the “Kyoto Protocol” to history?
Who would want the name of their favourite city linked to a treaty about global warming? It may be a momentous step towards a clean energy future but, if Kyoto is anything to go by, will also be hated by many. The poor “Little Mermaid” statue in Copenhagen harbour already suffers enough from protests, like red paint thrown by vandals last year (right).
A new U.N. pact for fighting global warming is meant to be agreed at the end of 2009 at a conference in the Danish capital and, by normal international practice, it would then be called the “Copenhagen Protocol”.
Denmark has been adamant that a baby shouldn’t be named before it is born so I was surprised this week when Polish Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki, on a visit to Oslo, spoke repeatedly about the planned “Copenhagen Protocol” as if it were already decided.
The name “Kyoto” is badly tarnished by years of disputes between U.S. President George W. Bush, who dismissed the pact as “fatally flawed”, and his industrial allies who are implementing Kyoto’s curbs on greenhouse gas emissions running to 2012.
Of course Shakespeare wrote that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. And the U.S. Senate was not swayed by Kyoto’s name — it voted 95-0 in 1997 against key principles before the treaty was either named or agreed.
So the suggestion may make the world’s lawmakers sound daft but maybe, just maybe, small things like names do have an influence?
Companies, after all, often carry out massive research before naming products to try to make them attractive. And how many oil companies have put their names on their tankers since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska?
One leading environmentalist once said — only half jokingly – that the next climate deal should be called the “Los Angeles Protocol” to make it attractive to Americans and a follow-up around 2020, when more action to curb greenhouse gases will be expected of developing nations, the “Beijing Protocol”.
U.N. officials, meanwhile, prefer to say that Copenhagen will agree ”the second period of the Kyoto Protocol”, upset by the suggestion that Kyoto will somehow ”run out” at the end of 2012 or — even worse – “expire”.
So what should any new climate treaty be called?
Maybe some corporate branding experts should be hired to come up with a name that perhaps has nothing to do with the city where it is agreed?
Or maybe the United Nations should have an international naming competition?
Perhaps most crucially, would a pact called something other than “Kyoto” have a better chance in the U.S. Senate?