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Global Warming: Policy-Making

Global Warming: Policy-Making

Global warming is a typical case of Hardin's tragedy of unmanaged global commons.* As in most common property, policy-making and implementation for mitigating global warming remains a complex task that involves international agreements and protocols. In this situation, substantive actions on climate change will be taken by sets of nations if and only if each nation believes that it benefits on balance.

The issue came into prominence during the late 1980s as a result of the increasing public concern over the greenhouse effect , stimulated by the Brundtland Report, and led to the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988. Following this, the United Nations General Assembly called for a global summit on environmental and developmental issues. More than 150 countries participated in this 1992 Earth Summit held at Rio de Janeiro, and pledged to confront this problem through international treaties.

The Kyoto Protocol of 1997, endorsed by 160 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, called for, on average, a 5-percent cut in emissions of six greenhouse gases by thirty-eight industrialized countries relative to 1990 emissions levels. Initial drafts of the international treaty called for this reduction by 2012, with each country having a different goal. Developing nations were not asked to commit to this emissions reduction.

To take effect, the treaty needs ratification by the industrialized nations accounting for 55 percent of the 1990 carbon dioxide emissions. The treaty has not enjoyed universal support, however. Some prominent nations, including the United States and Canada, have expressed reservations about the possible negative economic impact of the treaty. Representatives of countries have continued to meet regularly to negotiate consensus about unresolved issues of the protocol, especially rules, methods, and penalties. As of October 2002, eighty-four parties had signed and ninety-six parties had ratified or acceded to the Kyoto Protocol.

Obstacles to Policy-Making

Several factors influence policy-making in global warming. The existence of a "free-rider problem" makes international negotiations difficult. This results from an individual country taking advantage of the benefits of carbon abatement without bearing the abatement cost.

The second obstacle is the divergence of interest between winners (countries with damage from global warming) and losers (countries dependent on production and export of fossil fuels ) of global warming actions. Scientific uncertainty about the greenhouse effect and its regional implications is another issue that makes policy decisions more complicated and creates disagreements.

Another argument from proponents of inaction is that technical change over the years will solve the global warming problem. The participation of developing countries in limiting emissions is another issue facing policy-makers. These nations argue that they should not be forced to bear the economic costs associated with reducing greenhouse emissions that they did not create. There is a growing tension between developed and developing countries regarding constraints on emissions, highlighting the importance of including developing countries in international efforts toward global warming policies.

The unique nature of China's production that relies on coal poses another major challenge to policy-making. With its share of 11 percent of emissions and an expected share of 22 percent in 2011, this is becoming an important factor in international efforts.

Policy-making to address global warming aims at three options: preventive strategies to slow global warming; offsetting global warming through climatic engineering; and adaptation to the new climate. Among these options, preventive strategy has received the greatest public support. In a typical policy-making process, policy scientists and economists use a policy framework that is effective in addressing global warming in a coordinated way among individual countries.

Policy Instruments

There are four main classes of policy instruments that are commonly used to address global warming: emission targets, joint implementation, carbon taxes, and trading permits. These instruments differ in appropriate behavioral incentives to achieve the stated goals, economic efficiency in achieving these goals, and group incentives for long-term cooperation.

Emission targets aim at committing countries to achieve specific targets (especially carbon dioxide [CO2] and other greenhouse gases) by a specific date. While this approach is easier to administer, variation in abatement costs among countries could lead to uncertainty in the cost of meeting the target and often involves too much centralized information.

The joint implementation mechanism involves countries paying for pollution abatement projects in other countries and counting the reduced emissions against their own limits. A major drawback of this approach is that it cannot form a long-term basis for achieving targets unless all countries involved have enforced national emission levels. Carbon taxes are levied on producers or consumers on the basis of the carbon content of each fossil fuel. The tax level is efficient if it equated marginal damage cost of CO2 emissions.

Uncertainty in energy elasticities and technological substitutes makes it difficult to assess emissions reductions a priori. Extension of these taxes to an international scale is politically difficult to implement because of the reluctance of some countries to devolve sovereign powers. The shift of carbon emissions from controlled to uncontrolled countries could occur if there is disparity in national controls, which policymakers call "carbon leakage."

Trading permits, or quotas, constitute another policy instrument in which each country is allotted a quota that it may emit each year based on equity or other political considerations. These permits can be traded between countries to match their actual emissions.

National-Level Efforts

At the national level, several countries are making efforts to reduce emissions. Energy tax on usage (in some European countries), a CO2 tax (in Norway), industrygovernment agreements on energy efficiency (in the Netherlands), energy efficiency through improved technology (such as Energy Star in the United States), and reducing vehicular emissions (such as FleetWise in Canada) are some of the programs followed in individual countries.

Several European countries impose heavy taxes on energy usage, designed partly to curb such emissions. Norway taxes industries according to the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. In the Netherlands, government and industry have negotiated agreements aimed at increasing energy efficiency, promoting alternative energy sources, and cutting down greenhouse gas output. Other local initiatives to reduce emissions include energy-efficient buildings, reduced vehicle emissions and fuel use, and public education.

While several countries have recognized global warming as a serious problem, the success of policy-making depends on available technical information and international coordination.

see also Acid Rain; Carbon Dioxide in the Ocean and Atmosphere; Climate and the Ocean; El NiÑo and La NiÑa; Glaciers, Ice Sheets, and Climate Change; Global Warming and the Hydrologic Cycle; Global Warming and the Ocean.

Timothy Randhir

Bibliography

Brundtland, Gro Harlem. Our Common Future. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, for World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987.

Cline, William. The Economics of Global Warming. Washington, D.C.: Institute of International Economics, 1992.

Hardin, Garrett. "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science 162 (1968):12431248.

Heal, Geoffrey. "Formation of International Environmental Agreements." In Trade, Innovation, Environment, ed. Carlo Carraro. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994.

Mabey, Nick et al. Argument in the Greenhouse: The International Economics of Controlling Global Warming. New York: Routledge, 1997.

* See page 67 of this volume for an explanatory sidebar, "Tragedy of the Commons."

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Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol: see global warming.

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Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol

United Nations document

By: United Nations

Date: December 11, 1997

Source: United Nations. "Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change." December 11, 1997. <http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.html> (accessed May 16, 2006).

About the Author: The United Nations is an organization comprising almost all the world's recognized nations. It facilitates international cooperation in matters pertaining to law, security, economic development, and human rights.

INTRODUCTION

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement, signed by 163 countries, that was appended to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997. The protocol opened for signature in 1997 and entered into force—that is, became law for those countries that had both signed and ratified it—in 2005. The purpose of the protocol is to control the production of six greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, that are released by agriculture and industry and that many believe are changing the climate of the Earth.

In 1988, the United Nations created the International Panel on Climate Change to study the question of whether the world's weather was becoming warmer or cooler. The first report of the panel was issued in 1990. It affirmed that the Earth was probably warming as a result of human activity. In 1992, the greatest number of national leaders to attend any gathering up to that time met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit. This group created the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the Rio Convention. The Rio Convention called for the stabilization of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2000. The United States was among the countries that ratified the Rio Convention.

Starting in 1995, the signatories of the Rio Convention held a meeting called the Conference of Parties every year. The third Conference of Parties was held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. Here the Kyoto Protocol to the Rio Convention was negotiated. The Kyoto Protocol called for a more aggressive approach to the reduction of greenhouse gases than the 1990 convention. Specifically, it sought a global reduction of greenhouse-gas emission of five percent from 1990 levels by 2008–2012. Individual country targets varied; Germany agreed to a twenty-five percent cut, the United Kingdom to a fifteen percent cut, and the United States to a seven percent cut. The United States signed the Kyoto Protocol but has neither ratified nor officially withdrawn from it.

PRIMARY SOURCE

The Parties to this Protocol,

Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as "the Convention", In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2, Recalling the provisions of the Convention, Being guided by Article 3 of the Convention, Pursuant to the Berlin Mandate adopted by decision 1/CP.1 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its first session, Have agreed as follows:

ARTICLE 2

  1. Each Party included in Annex I, in achieving its quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3, in order to promote sustainable development, shall:
    1. Implement and/or further elaborate policies and measures in accordance with its national circumstances, such as:
      1. Enhancement of energy efficiency in relevant sectors of the national economy;
      2. Protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, taking into account its commitments under relevant international environmental agreements; promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation;
      3. Promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture in light of climate change considerations;
      4. Research on, and promotion, development and increased use of, new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies;
      5. Progressive reduction or phasing out of market imperfections, fiscal incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments;
      6. Encouragement of appropriate reforms in relevant sectors aimed at promoting policies and measures which limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol;
      7. Measures to limit and/or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol in the transport sector;
      8. Limitation and/or reduction of methane emissions through recovery and use in waste management, as well as in the production, transport and distribution of energy;
    2. Cooperate with other such Parties to enhance the individual and combined effectiveness of their policies and measures adopted under this Article, pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 2(e)(i), of the Convention. To this end, these Parties shall take steps to share their experience and exchange information on such policies and measures, including developing ways of improving their comparability, transparency and effectiveness. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, consider ways to facilitate such cooperation, taking into account all relevant information.
  2. The Parties included in Annex I shall pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively.
  3. The Parties included in Annex I shall strive to implement policies and measures under this Article in such a way as to minimize adverse effects, including the adverse effects of climate change, effects on international trade, and social, environmental and economic impacts on other Parties, especially developing country Parties and in particular those identified in Article 4, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Convention, taking into account Article 3 of the Convention. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol may take further action, as appropriate, to promote the implementation of the provisions of this paragraph.
  4. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol, if it decides that it would be beneficial to coordinate any of the policies and measures in paragraph 1(a) above, taking into account different national circumstances and potential effects, shall consider ways and means to elaborate the coordination of such policies and measures.

ARTICLE 3

  1. The Parties included in Annex I shall, individually or jointly, ensure that their aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed in Annex A do not exceed their assigned amounts, calculated pursuant to their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments inscribed in Annex B and in accordance with the provisions of this Article, with a view to reducing their overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012.
  2. Each Party included in Annex I shall, by 2005, have made demonstrable progress in achieving its commitments under this Protocol.…

ARTICLE 28

The original of this Protocol, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

DONE at Kyoto this eleventh day of December one thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven.

SIGNIFICANCE

The administration of President Bill Clinton was only moderately friendly to the Kyoto Protocol. Key figures in the Administration admitted the reality of global climate change, but the administration never submitted the protocol to the U.S. Congress for ratification. With the election of George W. Bush in 2000, U.S. policy turned strongly against the Kyoto Protocol. President Bush and his supporters have repeatedly emphasized that they consider global climate change itself to be uncertain or, if real, not necessarily caused by human activity. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations feared that implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would harm the economy of the United States.

Although the reality of global climate change is disputed by a few scientists, the great majority of scientists who study climate agree that the Earth's weather is not only changing, but changing as a result of human activities that release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Carbon dioxide is released primarily by burning coal and petroleum products, such as gasoline. Statements affirming that human activity is modifying the climate have been issued by many scientific groups, including the American Meteorological Society (2003), the American Geophysical Union (2003), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004). The latter urged that "governments and consumers in the United States and worldwide should take immediate steps to reduce the threat of global warming and to prepare for a future in which coastal flooding, reduced crop yields and elevated rates of climate-related illness are all but certain." Whether or not the Kyoto Protocol's carbon-dioxide reduction goals would be adequate even if implemented by all its signatories—including the United States, the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitter, both per-capita and overall—is scientifically uncertain. Proponents of the protocol argue that given the global stakes, it is better to begin taking even inadequate steps rather than no steps at all. Opponents fall into several camps. Some, including many political conservatives in the U.S., argue that global climate change may not be happening, may not be caused by human activity if it is happening, and may not be avoidable even if it is happening and is caused by human activity. Others argue that the Kyoto Protocol is economically irrational and would cause net harm to human well-being even if it succeeded in mitigating global climate change. U.S. criticism of the protocol argues that it does not ask for sufficient greenhouse-gas reductions from China, the second-largest greenhouse-gas emitter.

As the scientific consensus that greenhouse warming is real, potentially disastrous, and human-caused becomes more complete, U.S. political attitudes toward greenhouse-gas mitigation appear to be changing. In July 2005, the U.S. Senate approved a non-binding bipartisan resolution affirming that "there is growing scientific consensus that human activity is a substantial cause of greenhouse gas accumulation" and calling for "mandatory market-based limits" on greenhouse-gas emissions. In April 2006, the California Legislature began consideration of the Global Warming Solutions Act, which would set the first mandatory statewide caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. Since the bill reflects targets for greenhouse-gas reductions set by the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is likely to pass. "I say, the debate is over," Schwarzenegger said in June 2005. "We know the science. We see the threat, and we know that the time for action is now." In May 2005, 132 mayors of U.S. cities and towns formed a bipartisan coalition to implement the Kyoto Protocol's emissions targets at a community level.

In May 2006, a study by the National Academy of Sciences that had been commissioned by President George W. Bush announced that global warming is "real and particularly strong within the past 20 years" and attributed the warming primarily to carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels. The report said that "Global warming could well have serious adverse societal and ecological impacts by the end of this century."

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Cameron, Peter D., and Donald Zillman. Kyoto: From Principles to Practice. New York: Kluwer Law International, 2001.

Periodicals

Kintisch, Eli. "Climate Change: Along the Road From Kyoto." Science 311 (2006): 1702–1703.

Oreskes, Naomi. "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change." Science 306 (2004): 1686.

Web sites

American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Climate Experts Urge Immediate Action to Offset Impact of Global Warming." June 16, 2004. <http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2004/0616climate.shtml> (accessed May 16, 2006).

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Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol

Introduction

The Kyoto Protocol is a United Nations sponsored agreement that binds nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. The protocol, drafted and agreed in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, marked the finalization of years of negotiations that emerged from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The

Kyoto Protocol was signed by most nations at the 1992 Earth Summit.

Kyoto provided binding reduction targets for six key greenhouse gases by 2012. Proponents argue that the protocol is a landmark agreement among most industrialized nations, the world's largest per capita polluters. Critics assert that weak emissions-reduction targets and a lack of participation from the world's top polluters rendered the Kyoto Protocol ineffective. The protocol itself required ratification by enough industrialized countries to represent 55% of the developed world's CO2 output—a process that took seven years of negotiations. Kyoto entered into force in 2005, albeit without major polluters, including the United States, India, China, and Australia (who later ratified in December 2007).

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

At the Earth Summit, staged in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the most important document to come out of the ten-day conference was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was signed by most attending nations. This pledged to stabilize greenhouse-gas levels “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” It took three more sessions and five years to reach a concrete agreement on reduction targets. The culmination of those meetings, the Kyoto Protocol, was established on December 11, 1997, after ten days of negotiations among ministers from 160 countries. Under Kyoto, industrialized countries would reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% by 2012 when set against their 1990 levels. The agreement aimed to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide; methane; nitrous oxide; hydro-fluorocarbons; perfluorocarbons; and sulfur hexafluoride.

National reductions ranged from 8% for European Union member states and some others, to 7% for the United States, 6% for Japan and Canada, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.

Developing nations were, however, excluded from binding targets on emissions reductions. According to the earlier terms of the UNFCCC, signatories agreed to a set of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” In other words, the developed world took responsibility as the main contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions during the industrialization period that scientists say is responsible for climate change. Instead, the Kyoto Protocol calls on all parties—industrialized and developing—to take a number of steps to formulate national and regional programs to improve local emission factors. It also called for the collation of data and national inventories of greenhouse-gas emissions. Moreover, developing countries were also committed to promote environmentally sound development technologies. When better able to bear the costs, developing nations would then join subsequent emissions treaties.

Although the protocol opened for signature on March 16, 1998, it could only enter into force after it had been ratified by at least 55 countries, including industrialized countries accounting for 55% of the carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. Early on in the process, the United States and Australia made clear that they would not ratify the treaty. Because they collectively accounted for more than 20% of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions, it meant that virtually every other developed country would have to support the Kyoto Protocol for it to ever come into force.

Between 1997 and 2005, the Kyoto Protocol undertook a number of modifications. The most significant of these came at the Bonn Conference in July 2001 when provisions were made to establish funds to assist the world's less-developed nations make the transition to cleaner technologies and monitor their emissions. Amendments also authorized emissions trading, enabling countries to sell their spare emissions rights to other signatory countries. A limited means of accounting for carbon sinks, such as vast forest reserves, was also permitted.

Finally, in Fall 2004, Russia's Parliament agreed to ratify Kyoto, and on February 15, 2005, the protocol came into force. As of December 2007, 175 countries, representing 61.6% of 1990 emissions, had offered their formal support for the Kyoto Protocol. After rejecting the treaty on several occasions, Australia announced that it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol in December 2007.

Impacts and Issues

The United States holds steadfast in its rejection of Kyoto's binding targets for emissions reductions. Although China overtook the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States remains the world's largest per capita emitter. Even before the final draft of the protocol was agreed to in July 1997, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution stating that the United States should not be a signatory to any agreement that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing nations or that “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.” Although the administration of President Bill Clinton gave symbolic support to the protocol, with Vice President Al Gore signing it on November 12, 1998, his administration never put the treaty before the Senate for ratification.

Prior to his election in November 2000, President George W. Bush had reiterated the Senate's position over the lack of targets for developing countries, specifically voicing his concern about China and India's vast increase in greenhouse emissions since 1990. Ten weeks after Bush's inauguration as president, on March 28, 2001, a State Department official confirmed a report in the Washington Post that the new administration had asked to explore ways of formally withdrawing the U.S. signature from the Kyoto document. The United States instead opted to reject implementation of the protocol. Because of its refusal to ratify, the United States has never been under any international obligation to decrease its greenhouse emissions by the 7% agreed at Kyoto. Over the period 1990 to 2012, U.S. greenhouse emissions are predicted to increase by as much as 25%.

WORDS TO KNOW

ANTHROPOGENIC: Made by people or resulting from human activities. Usually used in the context of emissions that are produced as a result of human activities.

CARBON BANKING: Form of accounting that tracks the carbon emissions, reductions, and offsets of a client in a way that is analogous to the treatment of money in ordinary banking. A helpful adjunct to emissions trading schemes.

CARBON SINKS: Carbon reservoirs such as forests or oceans that take in and store more carbon (carbon sequestration) than they release. Carbon sinks can serve to partially offset greenhouse-gas emissions.

DEVELOPING NATION: Country that is relatively poor, with a low level of industrialization and relatively high rates of illiteracy and poverty. Sometimes termed less-developed country. The use of “developing” as a euphemism for “poor” contains the built-in assumption that “development,” in the sense of transition to a non-agricultural economy oriented toward perpetual growth, is innately good.

GREENHOUSE GASES: Gases that cause Earth to retain more thermal energy by absorbing infrared light emitted by Earth's surface. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and various artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons. All but the latter are naturally occurring, but human activity over the last several centuries has significantly increased the amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in Earth's atmosphere, causing global warming and global climate change.

U.S. opponents of the Kyoto Protocol assert that the binding targets would negatively impact the U.S. economy, citing the possibility of job loss and increased energy costs. U.S. public opinion on Kyoto is divided; so too are opinions on whether environmental or domestic economic concerns are more important. A Time/CNN Poll, published in April 2001, showed that while 75% of those surveyed consider global warming a “very serious” or “fairly serious” problem, and 67% said the president should develop a program to address it, only 48% said they would be willing to pay 25 cents more for a gallon of gasoline. Although economists disagree about the possible economic impacts of Kyoto implementation on the United States, a sizable majority of the U.S. public (62–71% in various polls) accepts the argument that binding emissions reduction targets could damage the economy. In contrast, many economists assert that development and implementation of green technologies could provide new jobs and bolster long-term economic prospects.

There is, however, growing acknowledgment of Australia and the United States's criticism of the exclusion of developing countries from Kyoto targets. India and China were not regarded as developed economies when the Kyoto Protocol was drafted, but by the start of 2008, many researchers estimated that China had overtaken the United States as the largest volume emitter of greenhouse gases, with India not trailing far behind. Instead of having to fulfill specific targets, China, India and other developing economies are asked to report their emissions levels and develop national climate change mitigation programs.

Another area of contention is the permission of emissions trading. Under the terms of Kyoto, national governments can issue companies tradable certificates that show compliance with targets. Companies involved in energy and power production can then decide to reduce emissions or purchase a certificate from a company with surplus permits. This allows businesses to find the most economical way of fulfilling their emissions targets. However, although a cost burden is placed on production of greenhouse gases, environmentally inefficient industry is not sufficiently discouraged. For example, a CO2 emitting coal power station could meet its Kyoto obligations by buying surplus carbon credits from a clean-technology wind farm.

Moreover, an overall drop in a country's carbon emissions can be attributable to an economic downturn rather than improvements to industries that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. This was the case in many former Soviet republics where recession following the collapse of communism stagnated industrial production and development. As a result, greenhouse-gas emissions dropped considerably, giving governments huge surpluses which they were then able to trade with other countries. Thus, the environmental benefit garnered from one country's industrial decline is negated by an expanding economy elsewhere purchasing surplus carbon credits.

“Carbon banking” also remains contentious. A country that exceeds its targets for one year can bank the surplus and use it to offset a subsequent year's emissions totals. For instance, if a country has to reduce emissions by 10%, but actually reduces it by 15% one year, the extra 5% can be used against the following year's target of 10%, essentially negating the previous year's reductions.

The methodology for calculating greenhouse-gas emissions has also come under criticism. In China, for example, because a viable market economy did not exist until the mid–1990s, emissions were calculated on state estimates for industrial production. Such figures were often incorrect, underestimating pre-Kyoto emissions levels. Now, the reverse is suspected, with officials accused of underestimating emissions after a decade of heavy industrialization and urbanization.

Several nations obliged to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol have been accused of misreporting concentrations of greenhouse gases. In 2006, the European Commission Joint Research Center carried out a study that claimed that a number of countries were substantially under-reporting methane emissions. The worst offenders included the United Kingdom, which may be emitting 92% more methane than it declared under the Kyoto Protocol, and France, which may be emitting 47% more than declared.

Although Kyoto is unique in providing binding targets for greenhouse emissions reductions, it was signed without providing penalties for a country that ratifies the protocol then fails to meet its reduction targets. Only later, at the 2001 Bonn Conference was it agreed that countries failing to meet their 2012 emissions targets would be required to suspend emissions credit purchasing and make up their target deficiency, plus a penalty of 30%, during the second commitment period.

IN CONTEXT: UNEQUIVOCAL EVIDENCE

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level….”

“Eleven of the last twelve years (1995–2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850)….”

Statement of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as formally approved at the 10th Session of Working Group I of the IPCC in Paris, France, during February 2007.

SOURCE: Solomon, S., et al, eds. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

However, a lack of punitive measures still makes Kyoto easy to undermine. There is no obligation to participate in a secondary commitment period and countries retain the ability to withdraw from the protocol with a year's written notice. The ease at which countries can renege on their Kyoto obligations was exemplified by Canada in 2006, when the incoming Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper made clear that it had no intention of fulfilling the nation's original Kyoto obligations. Although most other developed countries will meet their targets, including the European Union's 27 member states, Japan is predicted by the U.N. to have a 6% emissions increase, instead of its agreed upon target of a 6% emissions reduction.

Finally, some wonder if the Kyoto Protocol goes far enough. Research by Greenpeace asserts that even if they were met, the Kyoto targets will produce an actual overall reduction of gases of just 1% or 2%—falling well short of 60% reduction in greenhouse gases that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts is necessary to significantly mitigate climate change.

See Also Bonn Conference (2001); United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); United States: Climate Policy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Periodicals

“The Heat Is On—Survey: Climate Change.” Economist (September 7, 2006).

“Kyoto Challenge Has Just Begun.” Nature 431 (2004): 613.

Lashof, D. A., and Dilip R. Ahuja. “Relative Contributions of Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Global Warming.” Nature 344 (1990): 529–531.

Lund, H. “The Kyoto Mechanisms and Technological Innovation.” Energy 31 (2006): 2325–2332.

Masood, Ehsan. “Kyoto Agreement Creates New Agenda for Climate Research.” Nature 390 (1997): 390.

Reilly, J., et al. “Multi-gas Assessment of the Kyoto Protocol.” Nature 401 (1999): 549–555.

Web Sites

“Kyoto Protocol Status of Ratification.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. <http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/kyoto_protocol/application/pdf/kpstats.pdf> (accessed November 26, 2007).

“Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 1997. <http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.html> (accessed November 26, 2007).

James Corbett

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Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol

Introduction

The Kyoto Protocol is a United Nations-sponsored agreement that binds signatory nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. The protocol, drafted and agreed in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, marked the finalization of years of negotiations that emerged from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Kyoto Protocol was signed by most nations at the 1992 Earth Summit; as of 2008, the only remaining major nation to have not signed was the United States.

Kyoto provides binding reduction targets for six key greenhouse gases by 2012. Proponents of Kyoto argue that the protocol is a landmark agreement among most industrialized nations, the world’s largest per capita polluters. Critics assert that weak emissions-reduction targets, lack of participation from the world’s top polluters (especially the United States), and a lack of binding emissions targets for India and China rendered it ineffective. The protocol itself required ratification by enough industrialized countries to represent 55% of the developed world’s CO2 output—a process that took seven years of negotiations. Kyoto entered into force in 2005, albeit without the cooperation of some major polluters, including the United States and Australia. (Australia later ratified the agreement, in December 2007.)

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

The most important document to come out of the ten-day Earth Summit held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was the UNFCCC, which was signed by most attending nations. This pledged to stabilize greenhouse gases “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” It took three more sessions and five years to reach a concrete agreement on reduction targets. The culmination of those meetings, the Kyoto Protocol, was established on December 11, 1997, after ten days of negotiations among ministers from 160 countries. Under Kyoto, industrialized countries would reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% by 2012 when set against their 1990 levels. The agreement aimed to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

National reductions ranged from 8% for European Union member states and some others, to 7% for the United States, 6% for Japan and Canada, and 0% for Russia, and the protocol permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.

Developing nations were, however, excluded from binding targets on emissions reductions. According to the earlier terms of the UNFCCC, signatories agreed to a set of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” In other words, the developed world took responsibility as the main contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions, both historically and currently. The Kyoto Protocol called on all parties—industrialized and developing—to take a number of steps to formulate national and regional programs to improve local emission factors. It also called for the collation of data and national inventories of greenhouse-gas emissions. Moreover, developing countries were also pledged to promote environmentally sound development technologies. The concept was that when better able to bear the costs, developing nations would join the industrialized nations in binding emissions-limits agreements.

Although the protocol opened for signature on March 16, 1998, it could only enter into force after it had been ratified by at least 55 countries, including industrialized countries accounting for 55% of the carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. Early on in the process, the United States and Australia made clear that they would not ratify the treaty. Because they collectively accounted for more than 20% of 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions, it meant that virtually every other developed country would have to support the Kyoto Protocol for it to ever come into force.

Between 1997 and 2005, the Kyoto Protocol received a number of modifications. The most significant of these came at the Bonn Conference in July 2001 when provisions were made to establish funds to assist the world’s less-developed nations in making the transition to cleaner technologies and monitoring their emissions. Amendments also authorized emissions trading, enabling countries to sell their spare emissions rights to other signatory countries. A limited means of accounting for carbon sinks, such as vast forest reserves, was also permitted.

In late 2004, Russia’s Parliament agreed to ratify Kyoto, and on February 15, 2005, the protocol came into force. As of December 2007, 175 countries, representing 61.6% of 1990 emissions, had offered their formal support for the Kyoto Protocol. After rejecting the treaty on several occasions, Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2007. As of 2008, this left the United States as the only major nation in the world to have not signed the protocol.

Impacts and Issues

The United States rejects Kyoto’s binding targets for emissions reductions. Although China overtook the United States as the largest total emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007, the United States remains one of the world’s larger per-capita greenhouse polluters, with each U.S. citizen emitting about 6 times more greenhouse gas than each Chinese citizen. Even before the final draft of the Kyoto Protocol was agreed to in July 1997, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which stated that the United States should not be a signatory to any agreement that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing nations or that “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.” Although the administration of President Bill Clinton gave symbolic support to the protocol, with Vice President Al Gore signing it on November 12, 1998, it never put the treaty before the U.S. Senate for ratification.

Prior to his election in November 2000, President George W. Bush reiterated the Senate’s position on the lack of targets for developing countries, specifically voicing his concern about China and India’s vast increase in greenhouse emissions since 1990. However, while campaigning, he did state that he would support ratification of Kyoto. Ten weeks after Bush’s inauguration as president, on March 28, 2001, a U.S. State Department official confirmed a report in the Washington Post that the

WORDS TO KNOW

ANTHROPOGENIC: Made by humans or resulting from human activities.

CARBON BANKING: Form of accounting that tracks the carbon emissions, reductions, and offsets of a client in a way that is analogous to the treatment of money in ordinary banking. A helpful adjunct to emissions trading schemes.

CARBON SINK: A location like a forest where there is net storage of carbon as sequestration exceeds release.

DEVELOPING NATION: A country that is relatively poor, with a low level of industrialization and relatively high rates of illiteracy and poverty.

GREENHOUSE GAS: A gas whose accumulation in the atmosphere increases heat retention.

new administration had asked to explore ways of formally withdrawing the U.S. signature from the Kyoto document. The United States instead opted to reject implementation of the protocol. Because of its refusal to ratify, the United States has never been under any international obligation to decrease its greenhouse emissions by the 7% agreed at Kyoto. Over the period 1990 to 2012, U.S. greenhouse emissions are predicted to increase by as much as 25%.

U.S. opponents of the Kyoto Protocol assert that the binding targets would negatively impact the U.S. economy, citing the possibility of job loss and increased energy costs. However, 64% of Americans polled in 2002 supported U.S. participation in the protocol; by 2007, 68% of Americans polled favored a treaty that would require the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 90% by 2050, a far more stringent goal than that set by Kyoto. Yet poll results often depend on what questions are asked, and how. A Time/CNN Poll, published in April 2001, showed that while 75% of those surveyed consider global warming a “very serious” or “fairly serious” problem, and 67% said the president should develop a program to address it, only 48% said they would be willing to pay 25 cents more for a gallon of gasoline. Although economists disagree about the possible economic impacts or benefits of Kyoto implementation on the United States, a majority of the U.S. public (62-71% in various polls) accepts the claim that binding emissions reduction targets could damage the economy. In contrast, many economists assert that development and implementation of green technologies could provide new jobs and bolster long-term economic prospects.

There is, however, growing acknowledgment of the United States’ criticism of the exclusion of binding emissions targets for developing countries from Kyoto targets. India and China were not regarded as developed economies when the Kyoto Protocol was drafted, but by 2008, researchers estimated that China had overtaken the United States as the largest total emitter of greenhouse gases, with India not trailing far behind. Instead of having to fulfill specific targets, China, India, and other developing economies are asked under the protocol to report their emissions levels and develop national climate-change mitigation programs.

Another area of contention is the permission of emissions trading. Under the terms of Kyoto, national governments can issue companies with tradable certificates that show compliance with targets. Companies involved in energy and power production can then decide to reduce emissions or purchase a certificate from a company with surplus permits. This allows businesses to find the most economical way of fulfilling their emissions targets. However, critics of the protocol say that environmentally inefficient industry is not sufficiently discouraged. For example, a CO2-emitting coal power station could meet its Kyoto obligations by buying surplus carbon credits from a clean-technology wind farm—without reducing its own emissions.

In some cases, an overall drop in a country’s carbon emissions can be attributable to an economic downturn rather than improvements to industries that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. This was the case in many former Soviet republics where recession following the collapse of communism stagnated industrial production

and development. As a result, greenhouse-gas emissions dropped considerably, giving governments huge surpluses that they were then able to trade with other countries. Thus, the environmental benefit garnered from one country’s industrial decline is negated by an expanding economy elsewhere purchasing surplus carbon credits.

“Carbon banking” also remains contentious. A country that exceeds its targets for one year can bank the surplus and use it to offset a subsequent year’s emissions totals. For instance, if a country has to reduce emissions by 10%, but actually reduces it by 15% one year, the extra 5% can be used against the following year’s target of 10% essentially negating the previous year’s reductions.

The methodology for calculating greenhouse-gas emissions has come under criticism. In China, for example, because a viable market economy did not exist until the mid-1990s, emissions were calculated on state estimates for industrial production. Such figures were often incorrect, underestimating pre-Kyoto emissions levels. Now, the reverse is suspected, with officials accused of underestimating emissions after a decade of heavy industrialization and urbanization.

Several nations obliged to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol have been accused of misreporting concentrations of greenhouse gases. In 2006, the European Commission Joint Research Center carried out a study that claimed that a number of countries were substantially under-reporting methane emissions. The worst offenders included the United Kingdom, which may be emitting 92% more methane than it declared

IN CONTEXT: NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS AND FUTURE CHALLENGES

As a contribution to the then-developing Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in May 2007 at Bangkok, Thailand, the 9th Session of Working Group III of the IPCC formally approved a Summary for Policymakers that asserted: “Notable achievements of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are the establishment of a global response to the climate problem, stimulation of an array of national policies, the creation of an international carbon market and the establishment of new institutional mechanisms that may provide the foundation for future mitigation efforts.”

The scientific evidence now states that even if the Kyoto Treaty had been adopted and fully implemented by all countries, more stringent measures are required to effectively combat climate change.

“For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected.”

“Continued greenhouse-gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.”

SOURCE: Metz, B., et al, eds. “IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers.” In: Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2007.

under the Kyoto Protocol, and France, which may be emitting 47% more than declared.

Although Kyoto is unique in providing binding targets for greenhouse emissions reductions, it was originally created without providing penalties for a country that ratifies the protocol then fails to meet its reduction targets. Only later, at the 2001 Bonn Conference, was it agreed that countries failing to meet their 2012 emissions targets would be required to suspend emissions credit purchasing and make up their target deficiency, plus a penalty of 30%, during the second commitment period.

However, a lack of punitive measures still makes Kyoto easy to undermine. There is no obligation to participate in a secondary commitment period and countries retain the ability to withdraw from the protocol with a year’s written notice. The ease at which countries can renege on their Kyoto obligations was exemplified by Canada in 2006, when the incoming Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada had no intention of fulfilling the nation’s original Kyoto obligations. Although most other developed countries will meet their targets, including the European Union’s 27 member states, Japan is predicted by the U.N. to have a 6% emissions increase, instead of its agreed upon target of a 6% emissions reduction.

Finally, some critics charge that the Kyoto Protocol does not go far enough. Research by Greenpeace asserts that even if they were met, the Kyoto targets will produce an actual overall reduction of gases of just 1% or 2%—falling well short of the 60% reduction in greenhouse gases that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts is necessary to significantly mitigate climate change.

Most supporters of Kyoto agree that it has shortcomings, but argue that refusal to make an imperfect first effort to limit global climate change is equivalent to refusing to make any effort at all. Negotiations began in 2007 for an improved successor to Kyoto, due to come into force in the year 2012.

Primary Source Connection

The Kyoto Protocol contains twenty-five articles. Articles 1 through 3 and Articles 25 and 28 are included here. Also included are Annexes A and B. Annex A identifies greenhouse gases and sources of greenhouse gases. Annex B lists the parties to the agreement as well as their emission commitment. The numbers are percentages compared to their 1990 emissions.

KYOTO PROTOCOL

The Parties to this Protocol,

Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as “the Convention,”

In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,

Recalling the provisions of the Convention,

Being guided by Article 3 of the Convention,

Pursuant to the Berlin Mandate adopted by decision 1/CP.1 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its first session,

Have agreed as follows:

Article 1

For the purposes of this Protocol, the definitions contained in Article 1 of the Convention shall apply. In addition:

  1. “Conference of the Parties” means the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
  2. “Convention” means the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in New York on 9 May 1992.
  3. “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” means the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established in 1988 jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.
  4. “Montreal Protocol” means the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, adopted in Montreal on 16 September 1987 and as subsequently adjusted and amended.
  5. “Parties present and voting” means Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote.
  6. “Party” means, unless the context otherwise indicates, a Party to this Protocol.
  7. “Party included in Annex I” means a Party included in Annex I to the Convention, as may be amended, or a Party which has made a notification under Article 4, paragraph 2(g), of the Convention.

Article 2

  1. Each Party included in Annex I, in achieving its quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3, in order to promote sustainable development, shall:
    1. Implement and/or further elaborate policies and measures in accordance with its national circumstances, such as:
      1. Enhancement of energy efficiency in relevant sectors of the national economy;
      2. Protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, taking into account its commitments under relevant international environmental agreements; promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation;
      3. Promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture in light of climate change considerations;
      4. Research on, and promotion, development and increased use of, new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies;
      5. Progressive reduction or phasing out of market imperfections, fiscal incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments;
      6. Encouragement of appropriate reforms in relevant sectors aimed at promoting policies and measures which limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol;
      7. Measures to limit and/or reduce emissions of reenhouse gases not controlled by the ontreal Protocol in the transport sector;
      8. Limitation and/or reduction of methane emissions through recovery and use in waste management, as well as in the production, transport and distribution of energy;
    2. Cooperate with other such Parties to enhance the individual and combined effectiveness of their policies and measures adopted under this Article, pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 2(e)(i), of the Convention. To this end, these Parties shall take steps to share their experience and exchange information on such policies and measures, including developing ways of improving their comparability, transparency and effectiveness. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, consider ways to facilitate such cooperation, taking into account all relevant information.
  2. The Parties included in Annex I shall pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively.
  3. The Parties included in Annex I shall strive to implement policies and measures under this Article in such a way as to minimize adverse effects, including the adverse effects of climate change, effects on international trade, and social, environmental and economic impacts on other Parties, especially developing country Parties and in particular those identified in Article 4, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Convention, taking into account Article 3 of the Convention. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol may take further action, as appropriate, to promote the implementation of the provisions of this paragraph.
  4. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol, if it decides that it would be beneficial to coordinate any of the policies and measures in paragraph 1(a) above, taking into account different national circumstances and potential effects, shall consider ways and means to elaborate the coordination of such policies and measures.

Article 3

  1. The Parties included in Annex I shall, individually or jointly, ensure that their aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed in Annex A do not exceed their assigned amounts, calculated pursuant to their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments inscribed in Annex B and in accordance with the provisions of this Article, with a view to reducing their overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012.
  2. Each Party included in Annex I shall, by 2005, have made demonstrable progress in achieving its commitments under this Protocol.
  3. The net changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks resulting from direct human-induced land-use change and forestry activities, limited to afforestation, reforestation and deforestation since 1990, measured as verifiable changes in carbon stocks in each commitment period, shall be used to meet the commitments under this Article of each Party included in Annex I. The greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks associated with those activities shall be reported in a transparent and verifiable manner and reviewed in accordance with Articles 7 and 8.
  4. Prior to the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol, each Party included in Annex I shall provide, for consideration by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, data to establish its level of carbon stocks in 1990 and to enable an estimate to be made of its changes in carbon stocks in subsequent years. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, decide upon modalities, rules and guidelines as to how, and which, additional human-induced activities related to changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks in the agricultural soils and the land-use change and forestry categories shall be added to, or subtracted from, the assigned amounts for Parties included in Annex I, taking into account uncertainties, transparency in reporting, verifiability, the methodological work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the advice provided by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in accordance with Article 5 and the decisions of the Conference of the Parties. Such a decision shall apply in the second and subsequent commitment periods. A Party may choose to apply such a decision on these additional human-induced activities for its first commitment period, provided that these activities have taken place since 1990.
  5. The Parties included in Annex I undergoing the process of transition to a market economy whose base year or period was established pursuant to decision 9/CP.2 of the Conference of the Parties at its second session shall use that base year or period for the implementation of their commitments under this Article. Any other Party included in Annex I undergoing the process of transition to a market economy which has not yet submitted its first national communication under Article 12 of the Convention may also notify the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol that it intends to use an historical base year or period other than 1990 for the implementation of its commitments under this Article. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall decide on the acceptance of such notification.
  6. Taking into account Article 4, paragraph 6, of the Convention, in the implementation of their commitments under this Protocol other than those under this Article, a certain degree of flexibility shall be allowed by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol to the Parties included in Annex I undergoing the process of transition to a market economy.
  7. In the first quantified emission limitation and reduction commitment period, from 2008 to 2012, the assigned amount for each Party included in Annex I shall be equal to the percentage inscribed for it in Annex B of its aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed in Annex A in 1990, or the base year or period determined in accordance with paragraph 5 above, multiplied by five. Those Parties included in Annex I for whom land-use change and forestry constituted a net source of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 shall include in their 1990 emissions base year or period the aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by sources minus removals by sinks in 1990 from land-use change for the purposes of calculating their assigned amount.
  8. Any Party included in Annex I may use 1995 as its base year for hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, for the purposes of the calculation referred to in paragraph 7 above.
  9. Commitments for subsequent periods for Parties included in Annex I shall be established in amendments to Annex B to this Protocol, which shall be adopted in accordance with the provisions of Article 21, paragraph 7. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall initiate the consideration of such commitments at least seven years before the end of the first commitment period referred to in paragraph 1 above.
  10. Any emission reduction units, or any part of an assigned amount, which a Party acquires from another Party in accordance with the provisions of Article 6 or of Article 17 shall be added to the assigned amount for the acquiring Party.
  11. Any emission reduction units, or any part of an assigned amount, which a Party transfers to another Party in accordance with the provisions of Article 6 or of Article 17 shall be subtracted from the assigned amount for the transferring Party.
  12. Any certified emission reductions which a Party acquires from another Party in accordance with the provisions of Article 12 shall be added to the assigned amount for the acquiring Party.
  13. If the emissions of a Party included in Annex I in a commitment period are less than its assigned amount under this Article, this difference shall, on request of that Party, be added to the assigned amount for that Party for subsequent commitment periods.
  14. Each Party included in Annex I shall strive to implement the commitments mentioned in paragraph 1 above in such a way as to minimize adverse social, environmental and economic impacts on developing country Parties, particularly those identified in Article 4, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Convention. In line with relevant decisions of the Conference of the Parties on the implementation of those paragraphs, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session, consider what actions are necessary to minimize the adverse effects of climate change and/or the impacts of response measures on Parties referred to in those paragraphs. Among the issues to be considered shall be the establishment of funding, insurance and transfer of technology.

Article 25

  1. This Protocol shall enter 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.
  2. For the purposes of this Article, “the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I” means the amount communicated on or before the date of adoption of this Protocol by the Parties included in Annex I in their first national communications submitted in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention.
  3. For each State or regional economic integration organization that ratifies, accepts or approves this Protocol or accedes thereto after the conditions set out in paragraph 1 above for entry into force have been fulfilled, this Protocol shall enter into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
  4. For the purposes of this Article, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organization shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by States members of the organization.

Article 28

The original of this Protocol, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.DONE at Kyoto this eleventh day of December one thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorized to that effect, have affixed their signatures to this Protocol on the dates indicated.

Annex A

Greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Methane (CH4)

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Sectors/source categories

Energy

Fuel combustion

Energy industries

Manufacturing industries and construction

Transport

Other sectors

Other

Fugitive emissions from fuels

Solid fuels

Oil and natural gas

Other

Industrial processes

Mineral products

Chemical industry

Metal production

Other production

Production of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride

Consumption of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride

Other

Solvent and other product use

Agriculture

Enteric fermentation

Manure management

Rice cultivation

Agricultural soils

Prescribed burning of savannas

Field burning of agricultural residues

Other

Waste

Solid waste disposal on land

Wastewater handling

Waste incineration

Other

Annex B

Party Quantified emission limitation or reduction commitment (percentage of base year or period)

Australia 108

Austria 92

Belgium 92

Bulgaria* 92

Canada 94

Croatia* 95

Czech Republic* 92

Denmark 92

Estonia* 92

European Community 92

Finland 92

France 92

Germany 92

Greece 92

Hungary* 94

Iceland 110

Ireland 92

Italy 92

Japan 94

Latvia* 92

Liechtenstein 92

Lithuania* 92

Luxembourg 92

Monaco 92

Netherlands 92

New Zealand 100

Norway 101

Poland* 94

Portugal 92

Romania* 92

Russian Federation* 100

Slovakia* 92

Slovenia* 92

Spain 92

Sweden 92

Switzerland 92

Ukraine* 100

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 92

United States of America 93

*Countries that are undergoing the process of transition to a market economy.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE. “THE KYOTO PROTOCOL.” DECEMBER 11, 1997.

See Also Carbon Dioxide (CO2); Carbon Sequestration; Climate Change; Global Warming; Greenhouse Gases; United Nations Policy and Activism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Periodicals

“The Heat Is On—Survey: Climate Change.” Economist (September 7, 2006).

“Kyoto Challenge Has Just Begun.” Nature 431 (2004): 613.

Lashof, D. A., and Dilip R. Ahuja. “Relative Contributions of Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Global Warming.” Nature 344 (1990): 529-531.

Lund, H. “The Kyoto Mechanisms and Technological Innovation.” Energy 31 (2006): 2325–2332.

Masood, Ehsan. “Kyoto Agreement Creates New Agenda for Climate Research.” Nature 390 (1997): 390.

Reilly, J., et al. “Multi-gas Assessment of the Kyoto Protocol.” Nature 401 (1999): 549-555.

Web Sites

Nature Reports Climate Change. “Post-Kyoto Pact: Shaping the Successor,” June 7, 2007. http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0706/full/climate.2007.12.html (accessed April 2, 2008)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Kyoto Protocol Status of Ratification.” http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/kyoto_protocol/application/pdf/kpstats.pdf (accessed April 2, 2008).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.html (accessed April 2, 2008).

James Corbett

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Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol

Treaty

By: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Date: December 11, 1997

Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "The Kyoto Protocol." December 11, 1997.

About the Organization: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change includes representatives from 154 countries, including the United States. It was formed during the second Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

INTRODUCTION

The Kyoto Protocol is a system of rules, regulations, and requirements that were agreed upon by a group of countries known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The major goal of the Protocol is to decrease the global emissions of six critical greenhouse gases to levels that are 5 percent below what they were in 1990.

The negotiations to develop an international treaty controlling greenhouse gases began in 1972, with the first Earth Summit in Stockholm, Sweden. Leaders from around the world gathered to assess the environmental conditions of the planet and decided to meet every decade for further discussions. The 1982 Earth Summit was scheduled to meet in Nairobi, Kenya, but because of the Cold War, the Summit was not successful.

The second Earth Summit took place in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where world leaders convened to discuss the growing concern over greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The result was the formation of the UNFCCC, which includes 154 industrialized countries including the United States, the countries of the European Union, Japan, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The UNFCCC does not include China or India. The convention concluded with a resolution to bring the emissions of greenhouse gases back to the levels that they were in 1990. This resolution was signed by the United States.

Following the second Earth Summit, the countries in the UNFCCC began meeting to flush out the details of the resolution signed in Rio de Janeiro. The first of these meetings, called Conference of Parties I or COP I, occurred in 1995 in Berlin. The meeting reiterated the Parties' commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases and set timeframes and goals for member nations to achieve agreed-upon reductions.

COP II took place in Geneva, Switzerland. The major outcome of this meeting was a declaration confirming that scientific information provided compelling evidence that global change was occurring as a result of human activities.

The Kyoto Protocol was the result of the third meeting of the UNFCCC, or COP III, between December 1-11, 1997. The Parties agreed that the emissions goals set at the second Earth Summit were not stringent enough. They reduced the global targets by five percent with mandatory targets for all the member countries. These targets depend on each country's individual economy and future emissions projections. For example, the United States' goal is a 7 percent reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases; Germany's is 25 percent; and Japan's is 6 percent. A key feature of the Protocol is that it establishes an emissions trading program so that countries can best decide how they will reach their goals. The Protocol also calls for additional meetings so that Parties can agree on penalties if a country fails to meet its emission targets.

The Protocol contains twenty-five articles. Articles 1 through 3 and Articles 25 and 28 are included here. Also included are Annexes A and B. Annex A identifies greenhouse gases and sources of greenhouse gases. Annex B lists the Parties to the agreement as well as their emission commitment. The numbers are percentages compared to their 1990 emissions.

PRIMARY SOURCE

The Parties to this Protocol,

Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as "the Convention,"

In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,

Recalling the provisions of the Convention,

Being guided by Article 3 of the Convention,

Pursuant to the Berlin Mandate adopted by decision 1/CP.1 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its first session,

Have agreed as follows:

Article 1 For the purposes of this Protocol, the definitions contained in Article 1 of the Convention shall apply. In addition:

  1. "Conference of the Parties" means the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
  2. "Convention" means the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in New York on 9 May 1992.
  3. "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" means the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established in 1988 jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.
  4. "Montreal Protocol" means the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, adopted in Montreal on 16 September 1987 and as subsequently adjusted and amended.
  5. "Parties present and voting" means Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote.
  6. "Party" means, unless the context otherwise indicates, a Party to this Protocol.
  7. "Party included in Annex I" means a Party included in Annex I to the Convention, as may be amended, or a Party which has made a notification under Article 4, paragraph 2(g), of the Convention.

Article 2

1. Each Party included in Annex I, in achieving its quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3, in order to promote sustainable development, shall:

(a) Implement and/or further elaborate policies and measures in accordance with its national circumstances, such as:

(i) Enhancement of energy efficiency in relevant sectors of the national economy;

(ii) Protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, taking into account its commitments under relevant international environmental agreements; promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation;

(iii) Promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture in light of climate change considerations;

(iv) Research on, and promotion, development and increased use of, new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies;

(v) Progressive reduction or phasing out of market imperfections, fiscal incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments;

(vi) Encouragement of appropriate reforms in relevant sectors aimed at promoting policies and measures which limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol;

(vii) Measures to limit and/or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol in the transport sector;

(viii) Limitation and/or reduction of methane emissions through recovery and use in waste management, as well as in the production, transport and distribution of energy;

(b) Cooperate with other such Parties to enhance the individual and combined effectiveness of their policies and measures adopted under this Article, pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 2(e)(i), of the Convention. To this end, these Parties shall take steps to share their experience and exchange information on such policies and measures, including developing ways of improving their comparability, transparency and effectiveness. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, consider ways to facilitate such cooperation, taking into account all relevant information.

2. The Parties included in Annex I shall pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively.

3. The Parties included in Annex I shall strive to implement policies and measures under this Article in such a way as to minimize adverse effects, including the adverse effects of climate change, effects on international trade, and social, environmental and economic impacts on other Parties, especially developing country Parties and in particular those identified in Article 4, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Convention, taking into account Article 3 of the Convention. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol may take further action, as appropriate, to promote the implementation of the provisions of this paragraph.

4. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol, if it decides that it would be beneficial to coordinate any of the policies and measures in paragraph 1(a) above, taking into account different national circumstances and potential effects, shall consider ways and means to elaborate the coordination of such policies and measures.

Article 3

  1. The Parties included in Annex I shall, individually or jointly, ensure that their aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed in Annex A do not exceed their assigned amounts, calculated pursuant to their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments inscribed in Annex B and in accordance with the provisions of this Article, with a view to reducing their overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012.
  2. Each Party included in Annex I shall, by 2005, have made demonstrable progress in achieving its commitments under this Protocol.
  3. The net changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks resulting from direct human-induced land-use change and forestry activities, limited to afforestation, reforestation and deforestation since 1990, measured as verifiable changes in carbon stocks in each commitment period, shall be used to meet the commitments under this Article of each Party included in Annex I. The greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks associated with those activities shall be reported in a transparent and verifiable manner and reviewed in accordance with Articles 7 and 8….

Article 25

  1. This Protocol shall enter 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.
  2. For the purposes of this Article, "the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I" means the amount communicated on or before the date of adoption of this Protocol by the Parties included in Annex I in their first national communications submitted in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention.
  3. For each State or regional economic integration organization that ratifies, accepts or approves this Protocol or accedes thereto after the conditions set out in paragraph 1 above for entry into force have been fulfilled, this Protocol shall enter into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
  4. For the purposes of this Article, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organization shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by States members of the organization.

Article 28 The original of this Protocol, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. DONE at Kyoto this eleventh day of December one thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorized to that effect, have affixed their signatures to this Protocol on the dates indicated.

Annex A

Greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Methane (CH4)

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Sectors/source categories

Energy

Fuel combustion

Energy industries

Manufacturing industries and construction

Transport

Other sectors

Other

Fugitive emissions from fuels

Solid fuels

Oil and natural gas

Other

Industrial processes

Mineral products

Chemical industry

Metal production

Other production

Production of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride

Consumption of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride

Other

Solvent and other product use

Agriculture

Enteric fermentation

Manure management

Rice cultivation

Agricultural soils

Prescribed burning of savannas

Field burning of agricultural residues

Other

Waste

Solid waste disposal on land

Wastewater handling

Waste incineration

Other

Annex B

Party Quantified emission limitation orreduction commitment (percentage of base year or period)

Australia 108

Austria 92

Belgium 92

Bulgaria∗ 92

Canada 94

Croatia∗ 95

Czech Republic∗ 92

Denmark 92

Estonia∗ 92

European Community 92

Finland 92

France 92

Germany 92

Greece 92

Hungary∗ 94

Iceland 110

Ireland 92

Italy 92

Japan 94

Latvia∗ 92

Liechtenstein 92

Lithuania∗ 92

Luxembourg 92

Monaco 92

Netherlands 92

New Zealand 100

Norway 101

Poland∗ 94

Portugal 92

Romania∗ 92

Russian Federation∗ 100

Slovakia∗ 92

Slovenia∗ 92

Spain 92

Sweden 92

Switzerland 92

Ukraine∗ 100

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 92

United States of America 93

∗Countries that are undergoing the process of transition to a market economy.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Kyoto Protocol text was adopted unanimously at the end of the COP III meeting. However, it was opened for signatures by the various countries in March of 1998. As described in Article 25, in order for the Protocol to be enforced, it must be signed by fifty-five countries representing at least 55 percent of the global greenhouse emissions.

Following the meeting in Kyoto, the Conference of Parties met to negotiate some of the technical details of the Kyoto Protocol. Of key importance was the definition of a carbon sink, which is a natural mechanism that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Examples of carbon sinks are forests and phytoplankton in lakes and oceans. The definition of a carbon sink has implications for the emissions trading program. Other issues involved the regulations and operating structures in the emissions trading program. Many of these details were worked out in a meeting in Marrakech and are referred to as the Marrakech Accords.

After the U.S. presidential election in 2000, George W. Bush announced that the United States was not going to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because of the economic impacts it would have on the country. Instead, he announced that the U.S. had decided to pursue alternative measures for controlling of greenhouse gas emissions. The loss of the United States called the future of the Kyoto Protocol into question, because the United States was responsible for a significant portion—thirty-six percent—of the total greenhouse emissions in 1990. In order for the Kyoto Protocol to become enforceable all of the industrialized countries, including the entire European Union, Japan, and Russia, would have to ratify the agreement.

In 2002, COP VIII was held in New Delhi, India. The conference made clear that there was a growing concern in the international community regarding the responsibilities of developing and industrialized countries. In particular, the industrialized countries in the European Union felt that developing countries, in particular India and China, should be required to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the developing countries have called on the industrialized countries to provide aid to compensate for economic losses that would result from efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. The fact that the United States refused to support the Kyoto Protocol exacerbated the divisions between countries.

On November 18 2004, Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The sum of the emissions by signatories of the Protocol thus reached 62 percent. This surmounted the 55 percent threshold required for the Protocol to come into effect, which occurred on February 16, 2005. When the Protocol became binding, the eighty-four countries that had signed it became responsible for meeting the obligations for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as set out in the agreement.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Web sites

Greenpeace Canada. "A Brief History of the Kyoto Protocol." 〈http://www.greenpeace.ca/e/campaign/climate_energy/depth/kyoto/history.php〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

Mapleleafweb.com. "The Kyoto Protocol and Global Warming." 〈http://www.mapleleafweb.com/features/environment/Kyoto〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 〈http://unfccc.int/2860.php〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Fact Sheet on the Kyoto Protocol, October 1999." 〈http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/ResourceCenterPublicationsKyoto_99.html〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Kyoto Protocol Introduction." 〈http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/ResourceCenterPublicationsReferenceKyotoProtocolIntroduction.html〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

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