The “Copenhagen Protocol” on global warming?

April 10, 2008

Red paint is seen on The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen May 15, 2007. The statue was damaged by vandalsWhat’s in a name? 

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.

U.S. President George W. Bush (C), Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (R) and first lady Laura Bush tour Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto, Japan, November 16, 2005. President Bush and first lady Laura Bush began the first full day of their eight-day trip to Asia. REUTERS/Jason ReedOf 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?


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Barnum-Gore Protocol: “There is one born every-minute”

Posted by Scott Larson | Report as abusive

Well the protocol is dragging its butt home because the rest of the world found out the IPCC are liars and the worlds been cooling for 10 years.

Oh well, it’s a good move, maybe it’ll give them time to cool down for a few thousand years. They could spend more time building off shore drilling rigs and hating America.

Posted by Name | Report as abusive

1998 was the warmest year since records began in mid-19th century, but that surely doesn’t mean the world’s been cooling for 10 years?

A ranking of the warmest years in the past 150 reads 1998 followed by 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2001, 1997, 1995, etc. The World Meteorological Organization says “the long-term upward trend of global warming…is continuing.” o_notes/info_44_en.html

1998 may simply be the climate equivalent of Bob Beamon, who smashed the world record for the long jump at the 1968 Mexico Olympics with a leap of 8.90 metres, 55 cms beyond the previous best. The overall trend for athletes has been towards longer jumps, faster sprints etc but every now and then someone comes along with an amazing performance: that doesn’t mean the underlying trend is reversed and we’re on the way to becoming snails. Mike Powell eventually broke the record by jumping 8.95 metres in 1991.

Temperatures in 1998 were boosted by a strong El Nino warming of the Pacific Ocean — a natural variation of the climate that added to the warming from greenhouse gases.

…Of course not many people admire 1998’s warmth while Beamon’s leap was fantastic. But the point’s the same: one exceptional event doesn’t make a trend.

Posted by Alister Doyle | Report as abusive