- Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), aimed at fighting global warming. The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."
The Protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of September 2011, 191 states have signed and ratified the protocol. The only remaining signatory not to have ratified the protocol is the United States. Other states yet to ratify Kyoto include Afghanistan, Andorra and South Sudan, after Somalia ratified the protocol on 26 July 2010.
Under the Protocol, 37 countries ("Annex I countries") commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments. Annex I countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from the 1990 level. Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping, but are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are dealt with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The benchmark 1990 emission levels accepted by the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC (decision 2/CP.3) were the values of "global warming potential" calculated for the IPCC Second Assessment Report. These figures are used for converting the various greenhouse gas emissions into comparable CO2 equivalents (CO2-eq) when computing overall sources and sinks.
The Protocol allows for several "flexible mechanisms", such as emissions trading, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation to allow Annex I countries to meet their GHG emission limitations by purchasing GHG emission reductions credits from elsewhere, through financial exchanges, projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I countries, from other Annex I countries, or from annex I countries with excess allowances.
Each Annex I country is required to submit an annual report of inventories of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from sources and removals from sinks under UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. These countries nominate a person (called a "designated national authority") to create and manage its greenhouse gas inventory. Virtually all of the non-Annex I countries have also established a designated national authority to manage its Kyoto obligations, specifically the "CDM process" that determines which GHG projects they wish to propose for accreditation by the CDM Executive Board.
The view that human activities are likely responsible for most of the observed increase in global mean temperature ("global warming") since the mid-20th century is an accurate reflection of current scientific thinking (NRC, 2001, p. 3, 2008, p. 2). Human-induced warming of the climate is expected to continue throughout the 21st century and beyond (NRC, 2008, p. 2).
IPCC (2007) produced a range of projections of what the future increase in global mean temperature might be. Projections spanned a range due to socio-economic uncertainties, e.g., over future greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels, and uncertainties with regard to physical science aspects, e.g., the climate sensitivity. For the time period 2090–2099, measured from global mean temperature in the period 1980–1999, the "likely" range (as assessed to have a greater than 66% probability of being correct, based on expert judgement) across the six SRES "marker" emissions scenarios was projected as an increase in global mean temperature of 1.1 to 6.4 °C.
The scientific question of what constitutes a "safe" level of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations has been asked (NRC, 2001, p. 4). This question cannot be answered directly since it requires value judgements of, for example, what would be an acceptable risk to human welfare. In general, however, risks increase with both the rate and magnitude of future climate change.
The objective of the Kyoto climate change conference was to establish a legally binding international agreement, whereby all the participating nations commit themselves to tackling the issue of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. The target agreed upon was an average reduction of 5.2% from 1990 levels by the year 2012. According to the treaty, in 2012, Annex I countries must have fulfilled their obligations of reduction of greenhouse gases emissions established for the first commitment period (2008–2012) (listed in Annex B of the Protocol).
The Kyoto Protocol's first round commitments are the first detailed step of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Gupta et al., 2007). The Protocol establishes a structure of rolling emission reduction commitment periods, with negotiations on second period commitments that were scheduled to start in 2005 (see Kyoto Protocol#Successor for details) (Grubb and Depledge, 2001, p. 269). The first period emission reduction commitments expire at the end of 2012.
The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Even if Annex I Parties succeed in meeting their first-round commitments, much greater emission reductions will be required in future to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations (Grubb and Depledge, 2001, p. 269; IPCC, 2001, p. 122).
The five principal concepts of the Kyoto Protocol are:
- Commitments to the Annex-countries. The heart of the Protocol lies in establishing commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases that are legally binding for Annex I countries. Dividing the countries in different groups is one of the key concepts in making commitments possible, where only the Annex I countries in 1997, were seen as having the economic capacity to commit themselves and their industry. Making only the few nations in the Annex 1 group committed to the protocols limitations.
- Implementation. In order to meet the objectives of the Protocol, Annex I countries are required to prepare policies and measures for the reduction of greenhouse gases in their respective countries. In addition, they are required to increase the absorption of these gases and utilize all mechanisms available, such as joint implementation, the clean development mechanism and emissions trading, in order to be rewarded with credits that would allow more greenhouse gas emissions at home.
- Minimizing Impacts on Developing Countries by establishing an adaptation fund for climate change.
- Accounting, Reporting and Review in order to ensure the integrity of the Protocol.
- Compliance. Establishing a Compliance Committee to enforce compliance with the commitments under the Protocol.
2012 emission targets and "flexible mechanisms"
Thirty-nine of the forty Annex I countries have ratified the Protocol. Of these, thirty-four have committed themselves to a reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by them to targets that are set in relation to their 1990 emission levels, in accordance with Annex B of the Protocol. The targets apply to the four greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, and two groups of gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. The six GHG are translated into CO2 equivalents in determining reductions in emissions. These reduction targets are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are dealt with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Under the Protocol, only the Annex I countries have committed themselves to national or joint reduction targets, (formally called "quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives" (QELRO) – Article 4.1) that range from a joint reduction of 8% for the European Union and others, to 7% for the United States (non-binding as the US is not a signatory), 6% for Japan and 0% for Russia. The treaty permits emission increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland. Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping.
Annex I countries can achieve their targets by allocating reduced annual allowances to major operators within their borders, or by allowing these operators to exceed their allocations by offsetting any excess through a mechanism that is agreed by all the parties to the UNFCCC, such as by buying emission allowances from other operators which have excess emissions credits.
38 of the 39 Annex I countries have agreed to cap their emissions in this way, two others are required to do so under their conditions of accession into the EU, and one more (Belarus) is seeking to become an Annex I country.
The Protocol defines three "flexibility mechanisms" that can be used by Annex I countries in meeting their emission reduction commitments (Bashmakov et al.., 2001, p. 402). The flexibility mechanisms are International Emissions Trading (IET), the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI). IET allows Annex I countries to "trade" their emissions (Assigned Amount Units, AAUs, or "allowances" for short). For IET, the economic basis for providing this flexibility is that the marginal cost of emission abatement differs among countries. Trade could potentially allow the Annex I countries to meet their emission reduction commitments at a reduced cost. This is because trade allows emissions to be abated first in countries where the costs of abatement are lowest, thus increasing the efficiency of the Kyoto agreement.
The CDM and JI are called "project-based mechanisms," in that they generate emission reductions from projects. The difference between IET and the project-based mechanisms is that IET is based on the setting of a quantitative restriction of emissions, while the CDM and JI are based on the idea of "production" of emission reductions (Toth et al.., 2001, p. 660). The CDM is designed to encourage production of emission reductions in non-Annex I countries, while JI encourages production of emission reductions in Annex I countries.
The production of emission reductions generated by the CDM and JI can be used by Annex B countries in meeting their emission reduction commitments. The emission reductions produced by the CDM and JI are both measured against a hypothetical baseline of emissions that would have occurred in the absence of a particular emission reduction project. The emission reductions produced by the CDM are called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs); reductions produced by JI are called Emission Reduction Units (ERUs). The reductions are called "credits" because they are emission reductions credited against a hypothetical baseline of emissions.
International Emissions Trading
A number of emissions trading schemes (ETS) have been, or are planned to be, implemented.:19–26
- Japan: emissions trading in Tokyo started in 2010. This scheme is run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.:24
- European Union: the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which started in 2005. This is run by the European Commission.:20
- Norway: domestic emissions trading in Norway started in 2005.:21 This was run by the Norwegian Government, which is now a participant in the EU ETS.
- Switzerland: the Swiss ETS, which runs from 2008 to 2012, to coincide with the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period.:22
- United Kingdom:
- Canada: emissions trading in Alberta, Canada, which started in 2007. This scheme is run by the Government of Alberta.:22
- United States:
- the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which started in 2009. This scheme caps emissions from power generation in ten north-eastern US states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont).:24
- emissions trading in California, which is planned to start in 2012.:26
- the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which is planned to start in 2012. This is a collective ETS agreed between 11 US states and Canadian provinces.:25
- Australia: the New South Wales Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme (NSW), which started in 2003. This scheme is run by the Australian State of New South Wales.:19
- New Zealand: the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, which started in 2008.:23
Intergovernmental Emissions Trading
The design of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) implicitly allows for trade of national Kyoto obligations to occur between participating countries (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 24). Carbon Trust (2009, pp. 24–25) found that other than the trading that occurs as part of the EU ETS, no intergovernmental emissions trading had taken place. One of the environmental problems with IET is the large surplus of allowances that are available. Russia, Ukraine, and the new EU-12 member states (Kyoto Parties Annex I Economies-in-Transition, EIT) have a surplus of allowances, while many OECD countries have a deficit (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 24). Some of the EITs with a surplus regard it as potential compensation for the trauma of their economic restructuring. OECD countries with a deficit could meet their Kyoto commitments by buying allowances from transition countries with a surplus. Unless other commitments were made to reduce the total surplus in allowances, such trade would not actually result in emissions being reduced (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 25).
Green Investment Scheme
A Green Investment Scheme (GIS) refers to a plan for achieving environmental benefits from trading ‘hot air’ under the Kyoto Protocol. The Green Investment Scheme (GIS), a mechanism in the framework of International Emission Trade (IET), is designed to achieve greater flexibility in reaching the targets of the Kyoto Protocol while preserving environmental integrity of IET. Under the GIS a Party to the Protocol expecting that the development of its economy will not exhaust its Kyoto quota, can sell the excess of its Kyoto quota units (AAUs) to another Party. The proceeds from the AAU sales should be “greened”, i.e. channeled to the development and implementation of the projects either acquiring the greenhouse gases emission reductions (hard greening) or building up the necessary framework for this process (soft greening).:25
Clean Development Mechanism
Between 2001, which was the first year Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects could be registered, and 2012, the end of the Kyoto commitment period, the CDM is expected to produce some 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in emission reductions. Most of these reductions are through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and fuel switching (World Bank, 2010, p. 262). By 2012, the largest potential for production of CERs are estimated in China (52% of total CERs) and India (16%). CERs produced in Latin America and the Caribbean make up 15% of the potential total, with Brazil as the largest producer in the region (7%).
The formal crediting period for Joint Implementation (JI) was aligned with the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and did not start until January 2008 (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 20). In November 2008, only 22 JI projects had been officially approved and registered. The total projected emission savings from JI by 2012 are about one tenth that of the CDM. Russia accounts for about two-thirds of these savings, with the remainder divided up roughly equally between the Ukraine and the EU's New Member States. Emission savings include cuts in methane, HFC, and N2O emissions.
Stabilization of GHG concentrations
IPCC (2001, p. 122) assessed how the Kyoto first-round emission reduction commitments might be consistent with a long-term aim of stabilizing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. For a 450 ppmv target (energy-related CO2), some analysts suggested that the first-round Kyoto commitments were inadequately stringent (IPCC, 2001, p. 122; Morita et al., 2001, pp. 152–153). The first-round Kyoto commitments were assessed to be consistent with emission trajectories that achieve stabilization at 550 ppmv or higher. Other analysts suggested that the first-round commitments could be weaker and still allow for a long-term 450 ppmv target (IPCC, 2001, p. 122).
Details of the agreement
According to a press release from the United Nations Environment Program:
"After 10 days of tough negotiations, ministers and other high-level officials from 160 countries reached agreement this morning on a legally binding Protocol under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2%. The agreement aims to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases by 2008–12, calculated as an average over these five years. Cuts in the three most important gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) – will be measured against a base year of 1990. Cuts in three long-lived industrial gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) – can be measured against either a 1990 or 1995 baseline."
National limitations range from 8% reductions for the European Union and others, to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.
The agreement supplements the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which did not set any limitations or enforcement mechanisms. All parties to UNFCCC can sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol, while non-parties to UNFCCC cannot. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 3) in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Most provisions of the Kyoto Protocol apply to developed countries, listed in Annex I to UNFCCC.
National emission targets exclude international aviation and shipping. Kyoto Parties can use land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) in meeting their targets (Dessai, 2001, p. 3). LULUCF activities are also called "sink" activities. Changes in sinks and land use can have an effect on the climate (IPCC, 2007). Particular criteria apply to the definition of forestry under the Kyoto Protocol.
Forest management, cropland management, grazing land management, and revegetation are all eligible LULUCF activities under the Protocol (Dessai, 2001, p. 9). Annex I Parties use of forestry management in meeting their targets is capped.
Common but differentiated responsibility
UNFCCC adopts a principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." The parties agreed that:
- the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases originated in developed countries;
- per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low;
- the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet social and development needs.
Per-capita emissions are a country's total emissions divided by its population (Banuri et al.., 1996, p. 95). Per-capita emissions in the industrialized countries are typically as much as ten times the average in developing countries (Grubb, 2003, p. 144). This is one reason industrialized countries accepted responsibility for leading climate change efforts in the Kyoto negotiations. In Kyoto, the countries that took on quantified commitments for the first period (2008–12) corresponded roughly to those with per-capita emissions in 1990 of two tonnes of carbon or higher. In 2005, the top-20 emitters comprised 80% of total GHG emissions (PBL, 2010. See also the notes in the following section on the top-ten emitters in 2005). Countries with a Kyoto target made up 20% of total GHG emissions.
Another way of measuring GHG emissions is to measure the total emissions that have accumulated in the atmosphere over time (IEA, 2007, p. 199). Over a long time period, cumulative emissions provide an indication of a country's total contribution to GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2007, p. 201) compared cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions for several countries and regions. Over the time period 1900–2005, the US accounted for 30% of total cumulative emissions; the EU, 23%; China, 8%; Japan, 4%; and India, 2%. The rest of the world accounted for 33% of global, cumulative, energy-related CO2 emissions.
What follows is a ranking of the world's top ten emitters of GHGs for 2005 (MNP, 2007). The first figure is the country's or region's emissions as a percentage of the global total. The second figure is the country's/region's per-capita emissions, in units of tons of GHG per-capita:
- China1 – 17%, 5.8
- United States3 – 16%, 24.1
- European Union-273 – 11%, 10.6
- Indonesia2 – 6%, 12.9
- India – 5%, 2.1
- Russia3 – 5%, 14.9
- Brazil – 4%, 10.0
- Japan3 – 3%, 10.6
- Canada3 – 2%, 23.2
- Mexico – 2%, 6.4
- These values are for the GHG emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production. Calculations are for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and gases containing fluorine (the F-gases HFCs, PFCs and SF6).
- These estimates are subject to large uncertainties regarding CO2 emissions from deforestation; and the per country emissions of other GHGs (e.g., methane). There are also other large uncertainties which mean that small differences between countries are not significant. CO2 emissions from the decay of remaining biomass after biomass burning/deforestation are not included.
- 1 excluding underground fires.
- 2 including an estimate of 2000 million tonnes CO2 from peat fires and decomposition of peat soils after draining. However, the uncertainty range is very large.
- 3 Industrialised countries: official country data reported to UNFCCC
The Protocol also reaffirms the principle that developed countries have to pay billions of dollars, and supply technology to other countries for climate-related studies and projects. The principle was originally agreed in UNFCCC. One of them is called The Adaptation Fund"", that has been established by the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
The protocol left several issues open to be decided later by the sixth 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 2001 through 9 November 2001 in Marrakech to establish the final details of the protocol.
The first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP1) was held in Montreal from 28 November to 9 December 2005, along with the 11th conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP11). See United Nations Climate Change Conference.
On 3 December 2007, Australia ratified the protocol during the first day of the COP13 in Bali.
Of the signatories, 36 developed C.G. countries (plus the EU as a party in the European Union)agreed to a 10% emissions increase for Iceland; but, since the EU's member states each have individual obligations, much larger increases (up to 27%) are allowed for some of the less developed EU countries (see below Kyoto Protocol#Increase in greenhouse gas emission since 1990). Reduction limitations expire in 2013.
If the enforcement branch determines that an annex I country is not in compliance with its emissions limitation, then that country is required to make up the difference plus an additional 30%. In addition, that country will be suspended from making transfers under an emissions trading program.
Article 4.2 of the UNFCCC commits industrialized countries to "[take] the lead" in reducing emissions (Grubb, 2003, p. 144). The initial aim was for industrialized countries to stabilize their emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. The failure of key industrialized countries to move in this direction was a principal reason why Kyoto moved to binding commitments.
At the first UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Berlin, the G77 (a lobbying group that represents 133 developing countries, of which China is an associate (Dessai, 2001, p. 4)) was able to push for a mandate where it was recognized that (Liverman, 2008, p. 12):
- developed nations had contributed most to the then-current concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere
- developing country emissions per-capita were still relatively low
- and that the share of global emissions from developing countries would grow to meet their development needs.
This mandate was recognized in the Kyoto Protocol in that developing countries were not subject to emission reduction commitments in the first Kyoto commitment period. However, the large potential for growth in developing country emissions made negotiations on this issue tense (Grubb, 2003, pp. 145–146). In the final agreement, the Clean Development Mechanism was designed to limit emissions in developing countries, but in such a way that developing countries do not bear the costs for limiting emissions. The general assumption was that developing countries would face quantitative commitments in later commitment periods, and at the same time, developed countries would meet their first round commitments.
The choice of the 1990 main base year remains in Kyoto, as it does in the original Framework Convention. The desire to move to historical emissions was rejected on the basis that good data was not available prior to 1990. The 1990 base year also favoured several powerful interests including the UK, Germany and Russia (Liverman, 2008, p. 12). This is because the UK and Germany had high CO2 emissions in 1990.
In the UK following 1990, emissions had declined because of a switch from coal to gas ("dash for gas"), which has lower emissions than coal. This was due to the UK's privatization of coal mining and its switch to natural gas supported by North sea reserves. Germany benefitted from the 1990 base year because of its reunification between West and East Germany. East Germany's emissions fell dramatically following the collapse of East German industry after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany could therefore take credit for the resultant decline in emissions.
Japan promoted the idea of flexible baselines, and favoured a base year of 1995 for HFCs. Their HFC emissions had grown in the early 1990s as a substitute for CFCs banned in the Montreal Protocol (Liverman, 2008, p. 13). Some of the former Soviet satellites wanted a base year to reflect their highest emissions prior to their industrial collapse.
The G77 wanted strong uniform emission cuts across the developed world of 15% (Liverman, 2008, p. 13). Countries, such as the US, made suggestions to reduce their responsibility to reduce emissions. These suggestions included:
- the inclusion of carbon sinks (e.g., by including forests, that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere).
- and having net current emissions as the basis for responsibility, i.e., ignoring historical emissions.
The US originally proposed for the second round of negotiations on Kyoto commitments to follow the negotiations of the first (Grubb, 2003, p. 148). In the end, negotiations on the second period were set to open no later than 2005. Countries over-achieving in their first period commitments can "bank" their unused allowances for use in the subsequent period.
The EU initially argued for only three GHGs to be included – CO2, CH4, and N2O – with other gases such as HFCs regulated separately (Liverman, 2008, p. 13). The EU also wanted to have a "bubble" commitment, whereby it could make a collective commitment that allowed some EU members to increase their emissions, while others cut theirs. The most vulnerable nations – the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – pushed for deep uniform cuts by developed nations, with the goal of having emissions reduced to the greatest possible extent.
The final days of negotiation of the Protocol saw a clash between the EU and the US and Japan (Grubb, 2003, p. 149). The EU aimed for flat-rate reductions in the range of 10–15% below 1990 levels, while the US and Japan supported reductions of 0–5%. Countries that had supported differentiation had different ideas as to how it should be calculated, and many different indicators were proposed: relating to GDP, energy intensity (energy use per unit of economic output), etc. According to Grubb (2003, p. 149), the only common theme of these indicators was that each proposal suited the interests of the country making the proposal.
The final commitments negotiated in the Protocol are the result of last minute political compromises (Liverman, 2008, pp. 13–14). These include an 8% cut from the 1990 base year for the EU, 7% for the US, 6% for Canada and Japan, no cut for Russia, and an 8% increase for Australia. This sums to an overall cut of 5.2% below 1990 levels. Since Australia and the US did not ratify the treaty (although Australia has since done), the cut is reduced from 5.2% to about 2%.
Considering the growth of some economies and the collapse of others since 1990, the range of implicit targets is much greater (Aldy et al., 2003, p. 7). The US faced a cut of about 30% below "business-as-usual" (BAU) emissions (i.e., predicted emissions should there be no attempt to limit emissions), while Russia and other economies in transition faced targets that allowed substantial increases in their emissions above BAU. On the other hand, Grubb (2003, p. 151) pointed out that the US, having per-capita emissions twice that of most other OECD countries, was vulnerable to the suggestion that it had huge potential for making reductions. From this viewpoint, the US was obliged to cut emissions back more than other countries.
Negotiations over the flexibility mechanisms included in the Protocol proved controversial (Grubb, 2003, p. 153). Japan and some EU member states wanted to ensure that any emissions trading would be competitive and transparent. Their intention was to prevent the US from using its political leverage to gain preferential access to the likely surplus in Russian emission allowances. The EU was also anxious to prevent the US from avoiding domestic action to reduce its emissions. Developing countries were concerned that the US would use flexibility to its own advantage, over the interests of weaker countries.
The protocol defines a mechanism of "compliance" as a "monitoring compliance with the commitments and penalties for non-compliance." According to Grubb (2003, p. 157), the explicit consequences of non-compliance of the treaty are weak compared to domestic law. Yet, the compliance section of the treaty was highly contested in the Marrakesh Accords. According to Grubb (2003), Japan made some unsuccessful efforts to "water-down" the compliance package.
When George W. Bush was elected US president in 2000, he was asked by US Senator Hagel what his administration's position was on climate change. Bush replied that he took climate change "very seriously," but that he opposed the Kyoto treaty, because "it exempts 80% of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy" (Dessai, 2001, p. 5). Almost all world leaders (e.g., China, Japan, South Africa, Pacific islands) expressed their disappointment over President Bush's decision not to support the treaty (Dessai, 2001, p. 6).
In order for the Protocol to enter into legal effect, it was required that the Protocol was ratified by 55 Parties including 55% of 1990 Annex I emissions (Dessai, 2001, p. 3). The US accounted for 36% of emissions in 1990, and without US ratification, only an EU+Russia+Japan+small party coalition could place the treaty into legal effect. A deal was reached in the Bonn climate talks (COP-6.5), held in 2001. According to the EU, the Kyoto Protocol had been saved (Dessai, 2001, p. 8). For the G77/China, the Bonn agreement represented the "triumph of multilateralism over unilateralism" (Dessai, 2001, p. 8).
The Protocol was adopted by COP 3 on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It was opened on 16 March 1998 for signature by parties to UNFCCC.
Article 25 of the Protocol specifies that the Protocol 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% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Annex I countries, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession."
The EU and its Member States ratified the Protocol in May 2002. Of the two conditions, the "55 parties" clause was reached on 23 May 2002 when Iceland ratified the Protocol. The ratification by Russia on 18 November 2004 satisfied the "55%" clause and brought the treaty into force, effective 16 February 2005, after the required lapse of 90 days.
Government action and emissions
In total, Annex I Parties to the UNFCCC (including the US) managed a cut of 3.3% in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2004 (UNFCCC, 2007, p. 11). Projections reported by UNFCCC (2007, p. 11) indicated rising emissions of 4.2% between 1990 and 2010. This projection assumed that no further mitigation action would be taken. The reduction in the 1990s was driven significantly by economic restructuring in the economies-in-transition (EITs. See the following section for the list of EITs). Emission reductions in the EITs had little to do with climate change policy (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 24). Some reductions in Annex I emissions have occurred due to policy measures, such as promoting energy efficiency (UNFCCC, 2007, p. 11).
Progress towards targets
Progress toward the emission reduction commitments set in the Kyoto Protocol has been mixed. World Bank (2008, p. 6) reported that there were significant differences in performance across individual countries:
- For the Annex I non-Economies-in-Transition (non-EIT) Kyoto Protocol (KP) Parties, emissions in 2005 were 5% higher than 1990 levels (World Bank, 2008, p. 59). Their Kyoto target for 2008–2012 is for a 6% reduction in emissions. The Annex I non-EITs KP Parties are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
- The Annex I Economies in Transition (EIT) KP Parties emissions in 2005 were 35% below 1990 levels. Their Kyoto target is for a 2% reduction. The Annex I EIT KP Parties are Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
- In 2005, the Annex I non-KP Parties emissions were 18% above their 1990 levels. The Annex I non-KP Parties are Turkey and the United States (since this assessment was produced, Turkey has ratified the Kyoto Protocol).
- In total, the Annex I KP Parties emissions for 2005 were 14% below their 1990 levels. Their Kyoto target is for a 4% reduction.
According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL, 2009; n.d.), the industrialized countries with a Kyoto target will, as a group, probably meet their emission limitation requirements. Collectively, this was for a 4% reduction relative to 1990 levels. A linear extrapolation of the 2000–2005 emissions trend led to a projected emission reduction in 2010 of almost 11% (PBL, 2009). Including the potential contribution of CDM projects, which may account for emissions reductions of approximately 500 megatonnes CO2-eq per year, the reduction might be as large as 15%.
The expected reduction of 11% was attributed to the limited increase in emissions in OECD countries, but was particularly due to the large reduction of about 40% until 1999 in the EITs. The reduction in emissions for the smaller EITs aids the EU-27 in meeting their collective target. The EU expects that it will meet its collective target of an 8% reduction for the EU-15. This reduction includes:
- CDM and JI projects, which are planned to contribute 2.5% towards the target;
- carbon storage in forests and soils (carbon sinks), which contribute another 0.9%.
Japan expects to meet its Kyoto target, which includes a 1.6% reduction from CDM projects and a 3.9% reduction from carbon storage, contributing to a total reduction of 5.5%. In other OECD countries, emissions have increased. In Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, emissions have increased by 25% compared to the base year, while in Norway, the increase was 9%. In the view of PBL (2009), these countries will only be able to meet their targets by purchasing sufficient CDM credits or by buying emissions ("hot air") from EIT countries.
Emissions in the US have increased 16% since 1990. According to PBL (2009), the US will not meet its original Kyoto target of a 6% reduction in emissions.
UNFCCC (2005) compiled and synthesized information reported to it by non-Annex I Parties. Most non-Annex I Parties belonged in the low-income group, with very few classified as middle-income. Most Parties included information on policies relating to sustainable development. Sustainable development priorities mentioned by non-Annex I Parties included poverty alleviation and access to basic education and health care (UNFCCC, 2005, p. 6). Many non-Annex I Parties are making efforts to amend and update their environmental legislation to include global concerns such as climate change (UNFCCC, 2005, p. 7).
A few Parties, e.g., South Africa and Iran, stated their concern over how efforts to reduce emissions could affect their economies. The economies of these countries are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing, and export of fossil fuels.
GHG emissions, excluding land use change and forestry (LUCF), reported by 122 non-Annex I Parties for the year 1994 or the closest year reported, totalled 11.7 billion tonnes (billion = 1,000,000,000) of CO2-eq. CO2 was the largest proportion of emissions (63%), followed by methane (26%) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (11%).
The energy sector was the largest source of emissions for 70 Parties, whereas for 45 Parties the agriculture sector was the largest. Per capita emissions (in tonnes of CO2-eq, excluding LUCF) averaged 2.8 tonnes for the 122 non-Annex I Parties.
- The Africa region's aggregate emissions were 1.6 billion tonnes, with per capita emissions of 2.4 tonnes.
- The Asia and Pacific region's aggregate emissions were 7.9 billion tonnes, with per capita emissions of 2.6 tonnes.
- The Latin America and Caribbean region's aggregate emissions were 2 billion tonnes, with per capita emissions of 4.6 tonnes.
- The "other" region includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Malta, Republic of Moldova, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Their aggregate emissions were 0.1 billion tonnes, with per capita emissions of 5.1 tonnes.
Parties reported a high level of uncertainty in LUCF emissions, but in aggregate, there appeared to only be a small difference of 1.7% with and without LUCF. With LUCF, emissions were 11.9 billion tonnes, without LUCF, total aggregate emissions were 11.7 billion tonnes.
In several large developing countries and fast growing economies (China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, and Iran) GHG emissions have increased rapidly (PBL, 2009). For example, emissions in China have risen strongly over the 1990–2005 period, often by more than 10% year. Emissions per-capita in non-Annex I countries are still, for the most part, much lower than in industrialized countries. Non-Annex I countries do not have quantitative emission reduction commitments, but they are committed to mitigation actions. China, for example, has had a national policy programme to reduce emissions growth, which included the closure of old, less efficient coal-fired power plants.
Barker et al. (2007, p. 79) assessed the literature on cost estimates for the Kyoto Protocol. Due to non-US participation in the Kyoto treaty, costs estimates were found to be much lower than those estimated in the previous IPCC Third Assessment Report. Without US participation, and with full use of the Kyoto flexible mechanisms, costs were estimated at less than 0.05% of Annex B GDP. This compared to earlier estimates of 0.1–1.1%. Without use of the flexible mechanisms, costs without US participation were estimated at less than 0.1%. This compared to earlier estimates of 0.2–2%. These cost estimates were viewed as being based on much evidence and high agreement in the literature.
Views on the Protocol
Gupta et al. (2007) assessed the literature on climate change policy. They found that no authoritative assessments of the UNFCCC or its Protocol asserted that these agreements had, or will, succeed in solving the climate problem. In these assessments, it was assumed that the UNFCCC or its Protocol would not be changed. The Framework Convention and its Protocol include provisions for future policy actions to be taken.
World Bank (2010, p. 233) commented on how the Kyoto Protocol had only had a slight effect on curbing global emissions growth. The treaty was negotiated in 1997, but by 2005, energy-related emissions had grown 24%. World Bank (2010) also stated that the treaty had provided only limited financial support to developing countries to assist them in reducing their emissions and adapting to climate change.
Some of the criticism of the Protocol has been based on the idea of climate justice (Liverman, 2008, p. 14). This has particularly centred on the balance between the low emissions and high vulnerability of the developing world to climate change, compared to high emissions in the developed world.
Some environmentalists have supported the Kyoto Protocol because it is "the only game in town," and possibly because they expect that future emission reduction commitments may demand more stringent emission reductions (Aldy et al.., 2003, p. 9). In 2001, sixteen national science academies stated that ratification of the Protocol represented a "small but essential first step towards stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases." Some environmentalists and scientists have criticized the existing commitments for being too weak (Grubb, 2000, p. 5).
The lack of quantitative emission commitments for developing countries led to the governments of the United States, and also Australia under Prime Minister John Howard deciding not to ratify the treaty (Stern 2007, p. 478). Australia, under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has since ratified the treaty, which took effect in March, 2008.
In May 2010 the Hartwell Paper was published by the London School of Economics with funding from the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, Tokyo, Japan and Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc., Tokyo, Japan . The authors argued that after what they regard as the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, the Kyoto Protocol crashed and they claimed that it "has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years." They argued that this failure opened an opportunity to set climate policy free from Kyoto and the paper advocates a controversial and piecemeal approach to decarbonization of the global economy.[unbalanced opinion]
In the non-binding 'Washington Declaration' agreed on 16 February 2007, Heads of governments from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa agreed in principle on the outline of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. They envisage a global cap-and-trade system that would apply to both industrialized nations and developing countries, and hoped that this would be in place by 2009.
On 7 June 2007, leaders at the 33rd G8 summit agreed that the G8 nations would "aim to at least halve global CO2 emissions by 2050". The details enabling this to be achieved would be negotiated by environment ministers within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in a process that would also include the major emerging economies.
A round of climate change talks under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007) concluded in 31 August 2007 with agreement on key elements for an effective international response to climate change.
A key feature of the talks was a United Nations report that showed how efficient energy use could yield significant cuts in emissions at low cost.
The Conference was held in December 2008 in Poznań, Poland. One of the main topics on this meeting was the discussion of a possible implementation of avoided deforestation also known as Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) into the future Kyoto Protocol.
After the lack of progress leading to a binding commitment or an extension of the Kyoto commitment period in climate talks at COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009, there were and will be several further rounds of negotiation COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico in 2010, COP 17 in South Africa in 2011, and in either Qatar or South Korea in 2012 (COP 18). Because any treaty change will require the ratification of the text by various countries' legislatures before the end of the commitment period 31 Dec 2012, it is likely that agreements in South Africa or South Korea/Qatar will be too late to prevent a gap between the commitment periods.
- Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate
- Business action on climate change
- Carbon emission trading
- Carbon finance
- Environmental agreements
- Environmental impact of aviation
- Environmental tariff
- List of climate change initiatives
- Low-carbon economy
- Montreal Protocol
- Politics of global warming
- World People's Conference on Climate Change
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- Full text of the Kyoto Protocol (HTML version), (PDF version) (Alternate HTML version)
- Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Law-Ref.org – fully indexed and crosslinked with other documents
- List of countries who have ratified, accepted, approved, or accessed the Kyoto Protocol
- The layman's guide to the Kyoto Protocol
- 2008 Cap and trade Bill in the U.S. Senate
- The case against carbon trading by The Rising Tide Environmentalist Group
- Text of the Protocol at the Center for a World in Balance
- Kyoto: On Target? – Google Docs
- 2010 Climate Talks in Jeopardy as Industrialized Nations Threaten Kyoto Protocol – video report by Democracy Now!
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Kyoto Protocol — international agreement among industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997. Canada committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012 … Dictionary of automotive terms
Kyoto Protocol — n. international treaty on climate change adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 1997 to reduce discharge of greenhouse gas as to fight global warming … English contemporary dictionary
Kyoto Protocol: What Next? — ▪ 2006 by Roger A. Pielke, Jr. The Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty named after the Japanese city in which it was proposed in December 1997, came into effect in February 2005… … Universalium