Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)

The Kyoto Protocol was the first global greenhouse-gas limiting treaty enacted by the world’s nations—most of them, at least.  It was the first step in a journey of a many, many miles.  And although it is often criticized, the momentum it added to combating climate change was truly important.

Worldwide efforts to address climate change really began with the 1994 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the fundamental strategy to steer emission controlling efforts.  But it needed more, specifically a protocol for how the strategy would do its work.  That became the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997.

However, before the Kyoto Protocol entered into force it needed to be ratified by enough countries that 55% of global greenhouse-gas emissions would be covered.  Although 191 countries and one regional group had signed the agreement, the U.S. backed out in 2001, a big blow because the U.S. was then the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.  Eventually, when Russia ratified, the 55% threshold was passed, and the Kyoto Protocol began, on February 16, 2005.

Big Bend Power Station, Flordia

The Kyoto Protocol was a binding treaty that required developed countries to reduce their emissions by 5% over 1990 levels by 2012.  It left out developing countries, including China and India, asking only that those countries try to reduce their emissions.  The agreement allowed individual countries to devise their own means for achieving reductions, but it also added several incentives to get credit toward their goal by help developing countries reduce emissions.

The protocol has been praised by some and disdained by others.  Because it divided the world into two groups, only one of which—developed countries—was required to reduce emission, the protocol lacked a universal approach. Because the U.S. and later Canada and Russia, backed out, control of much of the developed world also fell outside the agreement.

Nonetheless, most of Western Europe performed exceptionally under the Kyoto protocol.  Overall emissions there declined by more than 20%, four times the required reduction.  Of course, the countries of Western Europe were and are the most conscientious about controlling climate change, making huge investments in energy conservation, green energy, forest regeneration and fuel switching.

Supporters of the Kyoto Protocol reiterate the idea that every journey starts with the first step and that the protocol was a crucial first step.  It provided motivation for all the actions that individual countries have performed, including the UK Climate Change Act ;of 2008, and it set a global expectation that responsible governments and industries would work towards emission control.  It also originated many specific ideas for how emissions would be monitored and accounted, including emission trading among nations and regions.

The “son of the Kyoto Protocol” is the Paris Agreement, created in 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016.  The Paris Agreement corrects several deficiencies in the Kyoto Protocol, primarily because each of the world’s countries, developed and developing, is now obligated to work toward controlling its greenhouse-gas emissions.

References:

Climate Home News.  2015.  Kyoto Protocol:  10 years of the world’s first climate change treaty.  Available at:  http://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/02/16/kyoto-protocol-10-years-of-the-worlds-first-climate-change-treaty/.  Accessed February 11, 2018.

CNN.  2017.  Kyoto Protocol Fast Facts.  CNN Library, March 24, 2017.  Available at:  https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/26/world/kyoto-protocol-fast-facts/index.html.  Accessed February 11, 2018.

United Nations Climate Change.  A Summary of the Kyoto Protocol.  Available at:  http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/background/items/2879.php.  Accessed February 11, 2018.

United Nations Climate Change.  The Paris Agreement.  Available at:  http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php.  Accessed February 11, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Yul Choi, Korean Environmentalist, Born (1949)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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