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Kyoto and Greenhouse Gas Diplomacy
History on climate change
• 1750: Before Industrial Revolution, atmosphere holds 280 parts per
million of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, later research determines.
• 1955: U.S. scientist Charles Keeling finds atmospheric carbon
dioxide has risen to 315 parts per million.
• 1988: NASA scientist James Hansen tells U.S. Congress global
warming "is already happening now.'' That summer, George Bush—
running for office—announces that as US president he will do
something about Global Warming.
• 1988: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is formed
by the UN
• 1992: World Environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro is the first
international step. Treaty sets voluntary goals to lower carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The US successfully
opposes targets, timetables, and refuses to provide financial
support. Participant countries and the US sign the watered-down UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change.
History on climate change
1995: U.N.-organized scientific panel (IPCC) says evidence suggests manmade emissions are affecting climate
1997: At the third session to the Conference of the Parties to the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change (in Kyoto, Japan), an
agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol, was reached.
1998: Warmest year globally since record-keeping began in mid-19th
1998: During further negotiations in Buenos Aires, The US signs Kyoto
protocol (under Clinton administration) but it is not ratified by congress;
therefore not legally binding
2001: U.N. scientific panel concludes most warming likely due to man-made
emissions; President Bush renounces Kyoto Protocol.
2002: Presidents G.W. Bush releases his climate change strategy. Calls for
slowing the growth of emissions rather than reducing them; cites economic
hardships if the US ratifies Kyoto.
History on climate change
2004: Carbon dioxide reaches record 379 parts per million
2005: Although the Bush Administration has rejected Kyoto, more than 100
other nations have ratified it and many of the developed countries have
begun efforts to meet their emissions targets. The Protocol legally entered
into force on February 16, 2005. Kyoto Protocol takes effect on Feb. 16. The
only MDCs holding out are the US and Australia.
2007: Warmest year globally since record-keeping began in mid-19th
Century. The last 12 years have seen the 11 warmest years on record.
2007: In February IPCC issues latest report. More than a 90% certainty that
human activities are responsible for Global warming. If nothing is done to
change current emissions patterns of greenhouse gases, global
temperature could increase as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100
4 major issues at Kyoto
1) Setting of binding limits. Since the 1988 Toronto
conference, the setting of binding limits on greenhouse
gas emissions has been on the table.
Kyoto decided that there would be nation-by-nation limits
that add up to a reduction of 5.2%. A lot of backroom
dealing-cuts of 8% in European Union, 7% in the US. But
this is all anemic compared to what the IPCC says is
needed-but 60-80% below the 1990 levels.
The Need for Flexibility. The US the Clinton administration
feared that the reduction levels the Europeans were asking for
would require politically difficult measures that were already being
aggressively fought by a multi-million dollar ad campaign. AND
the Senate had unanimously passed a measure that rejected any
agreement hurting the US economy.
At the insistence of the US, Canada and New Zealand, the Kyoto
protocol allows countries to count carbon absorption by forest offsets
against emissions.
Thus, carbon flow resulting from both additions to and substractions
from sinks is to be included in national inventories. A coal-burning
power company in Ohio, for example, could received offset credits for
financing a tree-planting project in Oregon.
3) emissions trading another kind of flexibility.
Each country has a set amount of emissions
that they are allowed to have. These
emissions carry a price tag.
Is it cheaper for a country to invest in reducing its
emissions, or in "buying” emissions rights from
another country?
The US government announced that it would try to
achieve up to 75% of the US reduction by
allowances from Russian and the Ukraine.
Ratification-Kyoto Protocol would only go into effect if
ratified by enough industrial countries to represent at
least 55% of industrial country emission. This finally
took place in February 2005 after Russia ratified the
US is still arguing that developing countries have to reduce
their emissions too, and wont ratify without "new and
scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse
gas emissions" by developing countries
Should developing countries have to go through a period of
greenhouse gas emissions while still trying to overcome
poverty and develop?
World Participation in Kyoto Protocol
(Dec 2006)
Points of contention…
MDCs and former Eastern Bloc nations account of 74%
of all carbon emitted since 1950 (who is responsible for
historic legacy of atmosphere in the environment…we
have used up the sink, the absorptive capacity of the
Rich nations point out that developing nations are rapidly
becoming emitters in their own right. Currently
responsible for 40% of all emission.
US Dept. of Energy projects that carbon output from
developing countries will surpass developed countries by
2020. China recently surpassed the US as principal
world polluter. Keep in mind, that China has over 1.3
billion people, while the US has 300K. Maybe its OK to
emit a bit more?
Even if the Protocol were implemented by all parties it
would result in a just a 5.2% reduction of greenhouse
gas emissions below 1990 levels.
From an environmental standpoint, this falls short. Most
scientists call for a 60-80% reduction from 1990 levels,
in addition to the cessation of widescale deforestation.
Developing Countries
Many developing countries question the fairness of requiring them to reduce
emissions while trying to grow/develop. Their emissions come from meeting
basic human needs, while in the industrial world it supports a standard of
living well above the world average. Per capita emissions are about 5 x the
average person in the industrialized world. “Luxury” emissions vs. “survival
• There are inherent conflicts of interest related to the issue of climate
change. Traditional points of digression between developed and
developing nations of the world become overwhelmingly apparent
during climate change negotiations.
• The developed world has a relatively high standard of living in
comparison to the developing world. The developed world is largely
responsible for the current dangerous levels of greenhouse gases in
the atmosphere, yet the developing world will likely be hit the
hardest by the outcomes of climate change.
• Concern about the rates of population growth and future industrial
growth in developing nations has caused industrialized nations to
demand that developing nations be bound by any agreement on
emissions reductions.
• The developing nations argue that they don't possess the economic
or technological resources to buy into an agreement yet. They see
the demands as an attempt to stifle their economic and industrial
growth, while they are desperately striving for a higher standard of
living and a better life. They ask why they should be responsible for
the remediation of a mess they did not create.
Meanwhile, the U.S. will not enter into an agreement to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions that does not require "meaningful involvement" on the part of
developing nations.
Such obvious reservations about emissions reductions on the part of the
world's richest and most powerful nation did not foster optimism about the
likelihood of an aggressive international agreement to curb climate change.
there are splits within the developing world as well: Between OPEC and the
Alliance of small Island States (AOSIS).
China position is that it will assume no burden for reducing emissions before
Costa Rica is becoming an "emissions entrepreneurs” -home to 17 pilot
energy and forestry "joint implementation" projects. trying to sell carbon
bonds on international markets. Costa Rica is in the forefront of
"decarbonizing development" and has set a target of phasing out fossil fuel
use for electricity generation by 2010
Other Third World countries are also making strides. The world’s fourth
leading user of wind power is India, the largest home solar photovoltaic
project is in Indonesia.
What US States are Doing…
The Federal Government has fallen
short of action on Climate change,
but US States and Cities are
taking action…
More than half of the nation's
50 states — including California,
Texas, New York, AND Florida —
have joined together in regional
coalitions aimed at reducing
greenhouse gas emissions from
power plants, boosting the use of renewable energy, and improving energy
Five states in the West and 10 in the NE that have banded together to fight
climate change account for 22% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Their efforts
have the potential to cut America's global warming emissions significantly.
At the same time, a dozen states sued the Federal government and won their
case. In April of this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that EPA must address
CO2 as a pollutant and regulate it under the CAA.
Many States have required a reduction of emissions from cars, trucks and
SUVs. Together, those states represent nearly half the U.S. population.
What US cities are doing…
On February 16, 2005 the Kyoto Protocol became law for the 141 countries that
have ratified it to date. On that day, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched the US
Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to advance the goals of the Kyoto Protocol
through leadership and action.
Under the Agreement, participating cities commit to take the following three
– Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through
actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects ;
– Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and
programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for
the United States in the Kyoto Protocol
– Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation,
which would establish a national emission trading system
What is Europe doing?
The EU is at the forefront of action against climate change
They have implemented an emissions trading scheme, similar
to carbon trade system which was only somewhat successful
in the first year, but was improved for future negotiations.
The EU has also increased their vehicle emissions standards,
airplane efficiency standards, and have pioneered mass transportations systems.
In March 2007, European leaders signed onto binding EU-wide target to source 20%
of their energy needs from renewables such as biomass, hydro, wind and solar power
by 2020.
Existing policies and measures are projected to reduce combined emissions by 1.6
per cent below 1990 levels by 2010. Additional domestic policies and measures being
planned would take the reduction to 6.8 per cent. Plans by 11 of the EU15 to obtain
emission credits through Kyoto’s project-based mechanisms would further increase
the total emission savings to 9.3 per cent in 2010.
Kyoto Today…
• 2008 is the first year to have met reduction standards.
• Latest meeting of the COP (12) was in Nairobi, Kenya and although
LDCs should have a larger platform, the US and other MDCs are still
calling most of the shots
• Next meeting will take place in 2008 to discuss progress and next
• The us is expected to sign and ratify Kyoto proticol under new
administration, some even suspect that G.W. Bush will make a
gesture toward the reduction US GHG emissions.
• Is it too late?