The Kyoto Protocol is "an important step forward towards a just and sustainable global climate policy regime" and as such needs to be fully implemented, however "much more radical reductions [of greenhouse gas emissions] are urgently needed," the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee stated at its recent meeting in Etchmiadzin, Armenia.
The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that ten years ago established targets and a schedule for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions of "greenhouse" gases, widely deemed responsible for global warming. Adopted in 1997, it has come into force only in 2005 and its commitments end in 2012.
In a "Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol," the WCC executive committee (25-28 September 2007) calls on the 174 states that have ratified the protocol to "fully implement its provisions," and on those which have not - especially major greenhouse gas emitters like the US and Australia - to "meet targets at least as strict as those included in the protocol".
Noting that "carbon emissions are still far above sustainable levels and even increasing," the committee denounces a "trend to convert the protocol into a market-based instrument for minimizing economic damage to national economies and business opportunities instead of stressing its purpose of limiting greenhouse gas emissions".
The WCC governing body asks for a "more principle-based approach" to be implemented after 2012. In order to achieve an "effective and equitable global policy on climate control," the following principles should be applied: equal entitlements to the use of the atmosphere and equal rights to development; responsibility both historic and prospective; priority for the poorest and weakest; and maximum risk reduction.
The statement affirms that "more comprehensive policies to support and promote adaptation and mitigation programmes in countries severely affected by climate change" are needed. Governments in the industrialized countries should "significantly increase support" to those programmes in the most vulnerable regions, namely the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions.
Calling churches, church-related agencies and ecumenical bodies to "strengthen their commitment and to foster their co-operation with regard to climate change," the WCC governing body also expressed its support for "the recommendations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Third European Ecumenical Assembly that churches dedicate a special time each year [beginning with September 1] to creation, its care and stewardship".