Kyoto Protocol

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The Kyoto Protocol or Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty on climate change. It is actually an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries which ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases.

The objective is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" [1].

The IPCC has predicted an average global rise in temperature of 1.4°C to 5.8°C between 1990 and 2100.[2] Some current estimates indicate that even if successfully and completely implemented, the Kyoto Protocol will reduce that increase by somewhere between 0.02°C and 0.28°C by the year 2050 (source: Nature, October 2003). Because of this, many critics and environmentalists question the value of the Kyoto Protocol, should subsequent measures fail to produce deeper cuts in the future.

File:Major greenhouse gas trends.png
Kyoto is intended to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases.

Proponents also note that Kyoto is a first step [3], as requirements to meet the UNFCCC will be modified until the objective is met, as required by UNFCCC Article 4.2(d).[4]

Status of the agreement

Participation in the Kyoto Protocol, where dark green indicates countries that have signed and ratified the treaty and yellow indicates states that have signed and hope to ratify the treaty. Notably, Australia and the United States have signed but, currently, decline to ratify it.

The treaty was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, opened for signature on March 16, 1998, and closed on March 15, 1999. The agreement came into force on February 16, 2005 following ratification by Russia on November 18, 2004. As of September 2005, a total of 156 countries have ratified the agreement (representing over 61% of global emissions) [5] [6]. Notable exceptions include the United States and Australia.

According to terms of the protocol, it enters into force "on the ninetieth day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Parties included in Annex I which accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.". Of the two conditions, the "55 parties" clause was reached on May 23 2002 when Iceland ratified. The ratification by Russia on 18 November 2004 satisfied the "55 percent" clause and brought the treaty into force, effective February 16, 2005.

Details of the agreement

According to press release from the United Nations Environment Programme:

"The Kyoto Protocol is a legal agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990 (but note that, compared to the emissions levels that would be expected by 2010 without the Protocol, this target represents a 29% cut). The goal is to lower overall emissions from six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs - calculated as an average over the five-year period of 2008-12. National targets range from 8% reductions for the European Union and some others to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland."

It is an agreement negotiated as an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, which was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992). All parties to the UNFCCC can sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol, while non-parties to the UNFCCC cannot. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.

Most provisions of the Kyoto Protocol apply to developed countries, listed in Annex I to the UNFCCC.

Financial commitments

The Protocol also reaffirms the principle that developed countries have to pay, and supply technology to, other countries for climate-related studies and projects. This was originally agreed in the UNFCCC.

Emissions trading

General article: emissions trading

Each Annex I country has agreed to limit emissions to the levels described in the protocol, but many countries have limits that are set above their current production. These "extra amounts" can be purchased by other countries on the open market. So, for instance, Russia currently easily meets its targets, and can sell off its credits for millions of dollars to countries that don't yet meet their targets, to Canada for instance. This rewards countries that meet their targets, and provides financial incentives to others to do so as soon as possible:

Countries also receive credits through various shared "clean energy" programs and "carbon dioxide sinks" in the form of forests and other systems that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

A Washington D.C.-based NGO, in the report "Getting It Right: Emerging Markets for Storing Carbon in Forests", assumes values of $30-40/ton in the US and $70-80/ton in Europe. On 18 April 2001, The Netherlands purchased credits for 4 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions from Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic; this was part of the ERUPT procurement procedure. These purchase agreements however contained conditions precedent, e.g. referring to the financing of the underlying projects. Since several of these conditions have not been met, the amount of purchased credits has since then decreased.


The protocol left several issues open to be decided later by the Conference of Parties (COP). COP6 attempted to resolve these issues at its meeting in the Hague in late 2000, but was unable to reach an agreement due to disputes between the European Union on the one hand (which favoured a tougher agreement) and the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia on the other (which wanted the agreement to be less demanding and more flexible).

In 2001, a continuation of the previous meeting (COP6bis) was held in Bonn where the required decisions were adopted. After some concessions, the supporters of the protocol (led by the European Union) managed to get Japan and Russia in as well by allowing more use of carbon dioxide sinks.

COP7 was held from 29 October 20019 November 2001 in Marrakech to establish the final details of the protocol.

Current positions of governments

See also: List of Kyoto Protocol signatories

File:Carbon Emission by Region.png
Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800-2000 AD

Position of Russia

Vladimir Putin approved the treaty on November 4, 2004 and Russia officially notified the United Nations of its ratification on November 18, 2004. With that, the Russian ratification is complete. The issue of Russian ratification was particularly closely watched in the international community, as the accord was brought into force 90 days after Russian ratification (February 16, 2005).

President Putin had earlier decided in favour of the protocol in September 2004, along with the Russian cabinet [7]. As anticipated after this, ratification by the lower (22 October 2004) and upper house of parliament did not encounter any obstacles.

The Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to a percentage increase or decrease from their 1990 levels. Since 1990 the economies of most countries in the former Soviet Union have collapsed, as have their greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, Russia should have no problem meeting its commitments under Kyoto, as its current emission levels are substantially below its targets. Indeed, it may be able to benefit from selling emissions credits to other countries in the Kyoto Protocol, which are currently using more than their target levels of emissions.

Position of the European Union

On May 31, 2002, all fifteen then-members of the European Union deposited the relevant ratification paperwork at the UN. The EU produces around 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has agreed to a cut, on average, by 8% from 1990 emission levels. The EU has consistently been one of the major supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, negotiating hard to get wavering countries on board.

In December, 2002, the EU created a system of emissions trading in an effort to meet these tough targets. Quotas were introduced in six key industries: energy, steel, cement, glass, brick making, and paper/cardboard. There are also fines for member nations that fail to meet their obligations, starting at €40/ton of carbon dioxide in 2005, and rising to €100/ton in 2008. Current EU projections suggest that by 2008 the EU will be at 4.7% below 1990 levels.

The position of the EU is not without controversy in Protocol negotiations, however. The collapse of Eastern Bloc countries who now are members of the EU may mean that the region's 1990 baseline emissions rate is inflated compared to that of other developed countries, thus giving European economies a potential competitive advantage over the US.

Position of the United States

The United States, although a signatory to the protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the protocol. The protocol is non-binding over the United States until ratified.

On June 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was to be negotiated, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Aware of the Senate's view of the protocol, the Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol for ratification.

The Clinton Administration released an economic analysis in July 1998, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisors, which concluded that with emissions trading among the Annex B/Annex I countries, and participation of key developing countries in the "Clean Development Mechanism" — which grants the latter business-as-usual emissions rates through 2012 — the costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol could be reduced as much as 60% from many estimates. Other economic analyses, however, prepared by the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Energy Energy Information Administration (EIA), and others, demonstrated a potentially large decline in GDP from implementing the Protocol.

The current President, George W. Bush, has indicated that he does not intend to submit the treaty for ratification, not because he does not support the general idea, but because of the strain he believes the treaty would put on the economy; he emphasizes the uncertainties he asserts are present in the climate change issue [8]. Furthermore, he is not happy with the details of the treaty. For example, he does not support the split between Annex I countries and others. Bush said of the treaty:

The world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China. Yet, China was entirely exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. This is a challenge that requires a 100 percent effort; ours, and the rest of the world's. America's unwillingness to embrace a flawed treaty should not be read by our friends and allies as any abdication of responsibility. To the contrary, my administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change. Our approach must be consistent with the long-term goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

According the information from EIA, USA, in 2003, China produced 0.74 metric tons carbon equivalent of CO2 per capita, a 40% rise from 1990, and which of the U.S. is 5.44 metric tons [9].

In June 2002, the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the "Climate Action Report 2002". Some observers have interpreted this report as being supportive of the protocol, although the report itself does not explicitly endorse the protocol. Later that year, Congressional researchers who examined the legal status of the Protocol advised that signature of the UNFCCC imposes an obligation to refrain from undermining the Protocol's object and purpose, and that while the President probably cannot implement the Protocol alone, Congress can create compatible laws on its own initiative.[10]

The White House has come under criticism for downplaying reports that link human activity and greenhouse gas emissions to climate change and that a White House official and former oil industry advocate, Philip Cooney, adjusted descriptions of climate research that had already been approved by government scientists. The White House has denied that Philip Cooney watered down reports. [11] In June 2005, State Department papers showed the administration thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, including the US stance on Kyoto. Input from the business lobby group Global Climate Coalition was also a factor. [12]

At the G-8 meeting in June 2005 administration officials expressed a desire for "practical commitments industrialized countries can meet without damaging their economies". According to those same officials, the United States is on track to fulfill its pledge to reduce its carbon intensity 18 percent by 2012. [13] Paul Krugman notes that the use of "carbon intensity" means the target reduction of 18 percent is still actually an increase in overall emissions.[14]

The position Bush has taken on climate change has shifted with a gradual increasing acceptance that global warming is a problem, and that it is partly caused by human activity. The United States has signed the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, a pact allows those countries to set their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions individually, but with no enforcement mechanism. Supporters of the pact see it as complementing the Kyoto Protocol whilst being more flexible whilst critics have said the pact will be ineffective without any enforcement measures. Nine north-eastern states and in California, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with 187 mayors from US towns and cities, have pledged to adopt Kyoto style legal limits on greenhouse gas emissions. [15]

Position of Canada

On December 17, 2002, Canada ratified the treaty. While numerous polls have shown support for the Kyoto protocol around 70% [16] [17], there is still some opposition, particularly by some business groups, non-governmental climate scientists and energy concerns, using arguments similar to those being used in the US. There is also a fear that since US companies will not be affected by the Kyoto Protocol that Canadian companies will be at a disadvantage in terms of trade.

As of 2005, the result has been limited to an ongoing "war of words", primarily between the government of Alberta (Canada's primary oil and gas producer) and the federal government. However, there are fears that Kyoto could threaten national unity, especially in Alberta.

To mitigate these threats, it appears that the federal government will ask for additional credits for "clean" fuels sold to the United States, most notably natural gas.

Position of Australia

Australia has refused to sign the Agreement due to issues with the protocol. The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has argued that the protocol would cost Australians jobs, and that Australia is already doing enough to cut emissions. The Federal Opposition, the Australian Labor Party is in full support of the protocol and it is currently a heavily debated issue within the political establishment. Australia is the world's second-largest emitter per capita of greenhouse gases.

The Australian government, along with the United States, agreed to sign the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate at the ASEAN regional forum on 28 July 2005.

Position of India

India signed and ratified the Protocol in August, 2002. Since India is exempted from the framework of the treaty, it is expected to gain from the protocol in terms of transfer of technology and related foreign investments. At the G-8 meeting in June 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out that the per-capita emission rates of the developing countries are a tiny fraction of those in the developed world. Following the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, India maintains that the major responsibility of curbing emission rests with the developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time.

Common but differentiated responsibility

The position of some industrialized nations on developing countries has often been criticized in the developing world. For example, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to a set of a "common but differentiated responsibilities." The parties agreed that

  1. The largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries;
  2. Per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low;
  3. The share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs. [18]

In other words, China, India, and other developing countries were exempt from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol because they were not the main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions during the industrialization period that is believed to be causing today's climate change.

Support for Kyoto

Advocates of the Kyoto Protocol claim that reducing these emissions is crucially important; carbon dioxide, they believe, is causing the earth's atmosphere to heat up (see global warming). This is supported by attribution analysis.

The governments of all of the countries whose parliaments have ratified the Protocol are supporting it. Most prominent among advocates of Kyoto have been the European Union and many environmentalist organizations. The United Nations and some individual nations' scientific advisory bodies (including the G8 national science academies) have also issued reports favoring the Kyoto Protocol.

An international day of action is planned for 3 December 2005, to coincide with the Meeting of the Parties in Montreal. The planned demonstrations are endorsed by the Assembly of Movements of the World Social Forum.[19]

Grassroots support in the US

In the US, there is at least one student group Kyoto Now! which aims to use student interest to support pressure towards reducing emissions as targeted by the Kyoto Protocol compliance.

As of November 15, 2004, nine Northeastern US states are involved in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) [20], which is a state level emissions capping and trading program. It is believed that the state-level program will indirectly apply pressure on the federal government by demonstrating that reductions can be achieved without being a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol.

As of June 22, 2005, 165 US cities representing 35 million Americans support Kyoto after Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle started a nationwide effort to get cities to agree to the protocol.

Opposition to Kyoto

The two major countries currently opposed to the treaty are the USA and Australia, based on the public statements of both governments and the US Senate. Some public policy experts who are skeptical of the global warming hypothesis see Kyoto as a scheme to either retard the growth of the world's industrial democracies or to transfer wealth to the third world in what they claim is a global socialism initiative.

Some critics say there are problems with the underlying science (see global warming controversy).

Some critics state that the protocol will prevent or damage economic growth.

  • American Council for Capital Formation [21]
  • United States Department of Energy [22]
  • National Bank of New Zealand [23]

The 1997 Leipzig Declaration called the Kyoto Protocol "dangerously simplistic, quite ineffective, and economically destructive to jobs and standards-of-living". However, most of the signers of the Leipzig Declaration were non-scientists or lacked credentials in the specific field of climate research.

Some argue that the protocol does not go far enough to curb greenhouse emissions (Niue, The Cook Islands, and Nauru added notes to this effect when signing the protocol [24]), and the standards it sets would be ineffective at curbing or slowing climate change. In addition, there have been recent scientific challenges to the idea of carbon credits, planting "Kyoto forests" or plantations to reduce total carbon dioxide output. Recent evidence shows that this may in fact increase carbon dioxide emissions for the first 10 years, due to the growth pattern of young forests and the effect it has on soil-trapped carbon dioxide. Several industrial countries have made carbon credits an important part of their strategies for reducing their net greenhouse gas outputs, further calling into question the effectiveness of the protocols.

Additionally, some theorists [25] predict that even if the world's leading industrial nations agree to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as mandated by the Kyoto Protocol, it is likely that there would be no net change in emissions worldwide. If the industrialized countries cut their demand for fossil fuels to meet the emission reduction responsibilties, the law of supply and demand would tend to cause the world prices of coal, oil and gas to go down, making fuel use more affordable for poorer nations. These theorists predict increased fuel use (primarily coal) in the "non-Annex I" countries, tending to offset the reductions of the "Annex I" countries.

It is argued by many that Kyoto fails to address larger issues of sustainability. While one may agree with establishing an international precedent for regulation of greenhouse gasses, failing to address other sustainability issues, such as typically rapid population growth [26] among "non-Annex I" countries, suggests to some that Kyoto represents an anti-industrial agenda rather than a fair attempt to mitigate climate change. But the supporters of Kyoto emphasize the protocol is just deal with the greenhouse gas emission issues, and other sustainability issues should have other protocols to be addressed naturally, which is not be solved by Kyoto, one protocol, one time. This point is just to confuse the focus of greenhouse gas emission issues.

Cost-benefit analysis

It is possible to try to evaluate the Kyoto Protocol by comparing costs and gains, though there are large uncertainties. Economic analyses disagree as to whether the Kyoto Protocol is more expensive than the global warming that it avoids; the recent Copenhagen consensus project analysis found it to have an overall benefit, though less than an "optimal" carbon tax. Defenders of the Kyoto Protocol argue however that while the initial greenhouse gas cuts may have little effect, they set the political precedent for bigger (and more effective) cuts in the future. Also, they demonstrate commitment to the precautionary principle. [27]

Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is an agreement between six Asia-Pacific nations: Australia, the People's Republic of China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. It was introduced at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), regional forum on July 28, 2005. The pact allows those countries to set their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions individually, but with no enforcement mechanism. Supporters of the pact see it as complementing the Kyoto Protocol whilst being more flexible whilst critics have said the pact will be ineffective without any enforcement measures. See article Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

See also

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External links



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