Editorial Feature

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

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The Kyoto Protocol, commonly referred to as the Kyoto Accord, is a treaty for the International Framework Convention on Climate Change. The purpose of the Kyoto Protocol is the reduction of greenhouse gases which are leading to climate change. On the 11th of December in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concurred in Kyoto during the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the treaty. In 2005, on the 16th of February, the Kyoto Protocol entered into force.

One hundred and seventy-four parties have endorsed the Kyoto Protocol since November of 2007. Thirty-six countries of the 174 parties were compelled to cut down on the amount of their greenhouse gas emission. The level of reduction in greenhouse gas emission needed to reach the level which was stated in the treaty by each of the countries.

There are no requirements for countries who had endorsed the Kyoto Protocol to go beyond the reporting and monitoring of emissions.

The Emission Target Set by the Kyoto Protocol

Every country that endorsed the Kyoto Protocol must commit to their specific emission reduction target. Industrialized countries have agreed to reduce their total emission to 5 percent below the level set in 1990 by the years 2008 to 2012.

Countries belonging to the European Union are anticipated to reduce their current level of emission by 8 percent. Japan is also anticipated to reduce the emission level by 5 percent. However, a number of countries which have low emission levels are allowed to increase their emission level.

Compliance to the Kyoto Protocol

Requirements for strict reporting as well as expert review process for the assessment of implementation are some of the compliance components associated with the Kyoto Protocol.

The compliance components associated with the Kyoto Protocol also assists in the identification of potential scenarios for non-compliances. The Kyoto Protocol states that further involvements in the procedures as well as the consequences are needed for non-compliance cases.

When Did the Kyoto Protocol Come into Force?

On the 16th of February in 2005, the Kyoto Protocol officially became a treaty which was legally binding. Two conditions had to be met in order for the Kyoto Protocol to become legally binding:

  • The Kyoto Protocol had been endorsed by at least 55 countries, and
  • The endorsement by nations that produced at least 55 percent of the emissions from the treaty's so-called Annex 1 countries

Has the Reduction in Emission Been Reached?

From 1990 to 2000, an overall reduction in emission of approximately 3 percent was made by industrialized countries. A statement from the United Nations claims that industrialized countries are now well on target for the end of the decade and estimate that by 2010, the emission of 10 percent above the level set in 1990 will be reached.

How Much Difference will the Kyoto Protocol Make?

A statement made by some climate scientists suggest that the reduction in emission targets laid down in the Kyoto Protocol is just the tip of the iceberg. The common agreement between climate scientists is that an emission reduction of about 60 percent is needed from the industrialized nations to prevent further worsening in global warming.

What is Emission Trading?

To assist parties in achieving the emission reduction targets at a reasonable cost, the Kyoto Protocol incorporates committed environmental targets together with inventive market-based mechanisms.

Emission trading permits countries to buy and sell their set allowances of emissions of greenhouse gases. For example, countries that produce many pollutants can buy credits which are not used by countries that produce very little pollution. Credits can also be gained by countries with activities which encourage the environment's capacity for carbon absorption.

The Kyoto Protocol is seen as a positive step in the direction of a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This has led to a stabilization in the greenhouse gas concentration levels, which in turn influences climate change. More work needs to be done, but the Kyoto Protocol is helping in turning things around for the preservation of the environment.

Criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol

Despite the efforts made throughout the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions at a large scale, the endeavor has been met with numerous criticisms. Presented in this section is a list of a number of issues confronting the promulgation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Personal Interests of Member States

As carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions are also indicative of industrial activities, and nation states are engaging in their respective ventures to promote globalization, limiting carbon dioxide emissions comes as a heavy favor among states. Each state needs to ensure that their personal interests for growth and development are not limited by the mandates and limitations presented by the protocol.

Selection of Member Nations

There is an ongoing debate regarding membership in international causes targeting environmental preservation. The Kyoto Protocol was met with criticism after it set a limit that only developed countries could participate in the cause. While this endeavor only implies that developed countries, through their industrialization ventures, are more inclined to produce carbon dioxide emissions, there is evidence to suggest that even developing countries are also producing significant amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases.

This article was updated on 10th April, 2019.

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