Issue Report: Kyoto Protocol

Is the Kyoto Protocol a good treaty to combat global warming? Is it a model for future treaties?

The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the international Framework Convention on Climate Change with the objective of reducing Greenhouse gases that cause climate change. It was agreed on 11 December 1997 at the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the treaty when they met in Kyoto, and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As stated in the treaty itself, The objective of the Kyoto Protocol is to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”[1]
As of May 2008, 182 parties had ratified the protocol. Of these, 36 developed C.G. countries (plus the EU as a party in its own right) are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels specified for each of them in the treaty (representing over 61.6% of emissions from Annex I countries), with three more countries intending to participate. One hundred thirty-seven (137) developing countries have ratified the protocol, including Brazil, China and India, but have no obligation beyond monitoring and reporting emissions. The United States is the only developed country that has not ratified the treaty and is one of the significant greenhouse gas emitters.[2] Substantial debate has surrounded the signing and ratification of the treaty, its performance (since 2005), and whether it constitutes a good model for future global climate change treaties. At all stages of the debate, the questions framing the controversy have been similar. They include, whether the Kyoto Protocol is a good model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Are mandatory emission regulations generally a good idea? Has the Kyoto Protocol succeeded as an empirical matter, since 2005, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Were its targets unreasonably ambitious? Or, possibly too insignificant? If Kyoto has done poorly at cutting emissions, is the absence of US involvement in the treaty to blame? Would US involvement have meant success? Can it mean success with a similar model in the future? Is the Kyoto Protocol symbolically important to the fight against global climate change? Is it acceptable that China, India, and other developing countries are exempt from the emission targets of the Kyoto Protocol? Is it acceptable that the Kyoto Protocol is an obligatory treaty or is a voluntary treaty a better idea? Does the Kyoto Protocol violate national sovereignty? Is it generally economical? Are the Kyoto Protocol’s regulatory approaches a good idea, or are market approaches superior? Why did the United States reject the Kyoto Treaty? Was it justified? Is global warming man-made, making the Kyoto Protocol relevant/irrelevant? Even if the Kyoto Protocol is flawed, is it a good step in the right direction? Does it establish a good cooperative framework for future climate change treaties? Should future treaties, particularly in 2012 following the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, be modeled after the general principles of the Kyoto Protocol?

Emissions: Does Kyoto effectively help cut emissions and combat global warming?

Fighting climate change means cutting emissions with Kyoto Protocol

Fighting global warming requires that countries move from a path of higher and higher greenhouse gas emissions each year to decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol sets in motion this process, so is an essential step in the fight against global warming. As of January 2008, and running through 2012, countries will have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a collective average of 5% below their 1990 levels. This is a significant reversal.

Jeremy Symons, manager of the global warming program at the National Wildlife Federation, said in 2005 to the Washington Post, “You can’t solve global warming by increasing emissions. That is what we are doing now. That is what President Bush is doing. You can’t stop an environmental problem by increasing pollution.”[3]

The Kyoto Protocol's target cuts in emissions are achievable

Stephen Leahy. "CLIMATE CHANGE: Kyoto on Track, Despite Some Slackers". Inter Press Service. November 21, 2007

BROOKLIN, Canada, Nov 21 (IPS) – Total greenhouse gas emissions of 40 industrialised countries rose to a near all-time high in 2005, but the Kyoto Protocol will still exceed its reduction targets, a United Nations agency said two weeks before political leaders meet in Bali, Indonesia to begin negotiations on a new and more aggressive treaty to battle climate change.”

Kyoto Protocol initiates cooperation on climate

Stanford University climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider said in support of Kyoto when it was initiated in 2005, “You’re going to need two generations of cooperative effort…to get ourselves off the fat carbon diet we’re on.”[4] The Kyoto Protocol, Schneider indicated, provided a good kick-start to this cooperative effort in fighting global warming.

General statements of support for the Kyoto Protocol

Reijo Kemppinen, a spokesman for the European Commission, said about Russia’s ratification of Kyoto in September of 2004. – “This is a very welcome event. This will increase awareness of the fact that the Kyoto protocol is extremely useful and the more countries that join, the more influence it will have. We hope the U.S. will reconsider.”[5]

Kyoto makes insufficient emission cuts to fight global warming

Leslie Evans. "Kyoto Protocol Said to Harm Effort to Stop Global Warming--But There Is Something Better". UCLA International Institute. 25 May 2007

“1. It is entirely insufficient. Most scientists say we need a 50% reduction of current levels by 2050 to stabilize world climate. But human emissions of greenhouse gases are expected instead to quadruple in the next hundred years. A 5.2% reduction in the next sixteen years would compound to an 8% reduction by the end of this century, i.e., it allows a 92% increase. At this pace we would need another 29 protocols to get where we should be.”

The Kyoto Protocol is showing little progress in reducing emissions

Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner, British economists. "Time to ditch Kyoto". Nature. 22 Oct. 2007

“The Kyoto Protocol is a symbolically important expression of governments’ concern about climate change. But as an instrument for achieving emissions reductions, it has failed…It (Kyoto) has produced no demonstrable reductions in emissions.”

Kyoto is too difficult to implement; won't cut emissions

Leslie Evans. "Kyoto Protocol Said to Harm Effort to Stop Global Warming--But There Is Something Better". UCLA International Institute. May 25, 2007

“2. The Kyoto Protocol is extremely difficult to implement. “It is costly and involves moral hazards.” There are three implementation mechanisms: (A) Trade in permits to emit greenhouse gases. (B) Joint implementation mechanism. (C) Clean development mechanism.”

The Kyoto protocol cannot significantly cut emissions without the US

Lord May, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government between 1995 and 2000, said in 2005, “The Royal Society has calculated that the 13 per cent rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the United States between 1990 and 2002 is already bigger than the overall cut achieved if all the other parties to the Protocol reach their targets. Even if emissions from the United States stay at the same level until 2012, which is an unrealistically conservative assumption, while the other targets are met, the overall results for the original parties to the Protocol will be a rise in emissions of 1.6 per cent instead of the desired reduction of 5.2 per cent.”[6]

Kyoto regulations on C02 emissions do not improve air-quality

The Kyoto Protocol's emissions targets are unrealistic

Symbol: Is Kyoto an important symbol in the fight on global warming?

Kyoto Protocol is important symbol in climate fight

The Kyoto Protocol is the most important international environmental and global warming treaty ever created. Joining it, and making it succeed is a very important symbolic measure in the life of this environmental movement. Rejecting it, or letting it fail, damages the long-term viability of this movement.

Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said in February 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol was initiatated, “The greatest value is symbolic.”[7]

Kyoto protocol is too costly a symbol

Sterling Burnett. "Was U.S. wise to reject Kyoto treaty on climate change?". National Center for Policy Analysis. 1 May 2005

“even as the champagne corks popped, Kyoto’s apologists were quietly admitting that the treaty would not prevent global warming, stating its importance was largely ‘‘symbolic.’’ After eight years and tens-of-millions of tax dollars spent: Kyoto is, indeed, an expensive symbol!”

"A good first step": Is the Kyoto Protocol "a good first step"?

Kyoto is an important first step in the right direction

John Gummer. "Viewpoint: Kyoto - the only game in town". BBC. 29 July 2004

“Its targets for reduction in our greenhouse gases are smaller than we need but it is the first step on the journey and that is always the hardest.”

Peter Tabuns. “Kyoto-Lite: It’s a Lot Better Than Nothing”. Toronto Globe. 24 July 2001 – “There will be some who believe Kyoto is too weak. Their arguments are valid, but they should remember the landmark Montreal protocol on CFCs and the ozone layer. That agreement started out weak but, once the architecture was in place, the protocol quickly adapted itself to keep pace with scientific evidence of the ozone layer’s depletion. There is nothing to suggest the Kyoto protocol cannot be similarly strengthened.”

The Kyoto Protocol is not very expandable

Leslie Evans. "Kyoto Protocol Said to Harm Effort to Stop Global Warming--But There Is Something Better". UCLA International Institute. May 25, 2007

“3. It is unlikely the Kyoto Protocol will be expanded. The defenders of the Protocol, Verweij said, ‘have always argued that it is only the first step. The problem is that there may not be a second step. There may not even be a first step. A leading Brazilian civil servant has told me that there is no chance there will be a second Kyoto Protocol. The second step would have to bring in the United States as well as the developing countries, which are not included in the first Kyoto Protocol. The developing countries argue that they did not create the problem in the first place. They say, we have much more important problems to deal with, such as drinking water, polluted cities. We don’t contribute much to the problem.'”

Global warming: Is global warming chiefly man-made, making Kyoto important?

Global warming is chiefly human-caused, making Kyoto important.

Global warming has spiked significantly since the industrial revolution, indicating that, despite some possible natural causes of global warming, it is chiefly caused by human green-house gas emissions. As such, the Kyoto Protocol is a very relevant today in fighting global warming.

Even if humans play a smaller role in climate change, Kyoto is still good.

Even if humans are not actually the “chief” cause of global warming, there is little dispute that we play some role, due to our emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to the warming of the globe. As such, the Kyoto Protocol is an important tool in the fight against human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Kyoto is justified if global warming is merely considered probable

"Turkey should sign Kyoto Protocol, says Nobel winner". Turkish Daily News. 13 May 2008

“The scientific evidence for global warming is reviewed every five years and we are becoming increasingly convinced that it is caused by human activity. We can never say that we are 100 percent sure because all science is considered to be a balance of probability.”

Kyoto Protocol is important beyond fighting global warming.

Reducing carbon emissions is important on many levels, not just on the grounds of fighting global warming. Reducing emissions can help fight air pollution, which is becoming an increasingly significant health risk in major cities around the world. Additionally, petroleum resources are running out. It is essential that we move beyond them to renewable alternatives. The Kyoto Protocol provides a good pretext for cutting carbon emissions and moving to renewable resources. It is important to recognize, therefore, that the Kyoto Protocol benefits the world in critical ways other than fighting climate change.

Humans are not causing global warming so Kyoto can't solve it

Natural causes are principally responsible for global warming today, making Kyoto irrelevant. Every 100,000 years, a cycle of glacial and inter-glacial periods occur. We are at the peak of the 10,000 year interglacial warming period before the next 100,000 year ice age. Our warming now is part of this cycle. Only planetary interactions between the sun and earth can cause such regular, but lengthy cycle’s. This leads to the conclusion that the sun is most responsible. Yet, the Kyoto Protocol bases its carbon-cutting objectives on the assumption that humans are chiefly responsible for global warming; a false assumption.

In 2001, US President Bush rejected ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on the basis of, “the incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change and the lack of commercially available technologies for removing and storing carbon dioxide.”[8]

Kyoto would only benefit the global warming establishment

Professor Kirill Kondratyev, Russian Academy of Sciences – “The only people who would be hurt by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would be several thousand people who make a living attending conferences on global warming.”[9]

Kyoto doesn't avert "crisis"; global warming has many positives

S. Fred Singer. "A Stronger Case Against Kyoto". The Independent Institute. 14 May 2001

“advancing climate science could convince the public that human-induced climate change is a minor contributor to the much larger natural changes and that, in any case, a slightly warmer climate and higher carbon dioxide levels would benefit agricultural crops and all of humanity.”

Exemptions: Is the Kyoto Protocol justified in exempting developing countries?

Industrial countries caused global warming so should carry burden

Al Gore. "Moving Beyond Kyoto". New York Times. 1 July 2007

“There are some who will try to pervert this precedent and use xenophobia or nativist arguments to say that every country should be held to the same standard. But should countries with one-fifth our gross domestic product — countries that contributed almost nothing in the past to the creation of this crisis — really carry the same load as the United States? Are we so scared of this challenge that we cannot lead?”

India/China can be pressured into joining Kyoto or other treaties

Ralph Nader, attorney, author, and political activist, stated in a Mar. 19, 2008 interview with environmental website – “Q: Many argue that the US shouldn’t commit to a global greenhouse-gas reduction target that doesn’t involve China and India. Do you agree with this? How would you bring them to the table?

[Nader]: You bring them to the table by restricting imports of badly emitting greenhouse-gas technologies. Then you devise an international treaty where you analyze very carefully which countries really need aid in this area, which countries don’t need aid, and you proceed accordingly. You have a deliberative process under an international body with a global goal of restricting greenhouse gases and acid rain and other things.”[10]

China is actually taking good measures to fight global warming

Ma Kai. "China is shouldering its climate change burden". Financial Times. 3 June 2007

“China has worked hard to adjust its economic structure to improve energy saving and cut emissions. From 1991 to 2005, with national energy consumption rising each year by 5.6 per cent, China sustained an annual economic growth rate of 10 per cent and lowered its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 47 per cent, saving 800m tons of coal and cutting 1.8bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.”

Kyoto Protocol wrongly exempts large developing nations

Charli E. Coon. "Why President Bush Is Right to Abandon the Kyoto Protocol." Heritage Foundation. 11 May 2001.

If the developing world’s emissions are not contained by the Kyoto Protocol, then the efforts of developed countries are rendered meaningless.

Hillary Clinton said on July 24th, 2007, “One of the flaws of the Kyoto process was I don’t think people anticipated, even in the early 90s how quickly China and India would grow. China is now growing at 12 percent a year. They are the second highest user of energy but they are now the highest emitter of green house gases in the world. India is not far behind. We have got to get a new international process.”[11]

“any agreement that allows the developing countries to continue emitting greenhouse gases would in effect negate the efforts of those countries that are trying to reduce them.”

Duncan Hunter, Republican US Congressional House Representative – “Kyoto exempted Communist China and India from limitations. Thus, US industry would be incentivized to move production to these two ‘smokestack’ countries, thereby increasing pollution-per-product made.”[12]

Kyoto regulations on developed nations hurts developing nations

Hans Martin Seip and Sigbjørn Grønås. “Organized opposition to the Kyoto Protocol”. CICERO. 16 Mar. 2005 – “A report from the International Policy Network (IPN) claims that restricting emissions of greenhouse gases in industrialized countries will hinder growth in developing countries. This is used as an argument against international agreements that restrict emissions. The report can be seen as urging Europe to follow the U.S. example in its climate policy.”[13]

Economics: Would Kyoto have a positive economic impact?

The Kyoto Protocol's emissions targets are economically reasonable

A large part of this argument is empirical. Many countries have demonstrated themselves capable of meeting Kyoto’s targets with negligible impact on their economies.

The Kyoto Protocol stimulates new industries

"Rudd a green light for eco-businesses". 1 Dec. 2007

“ECO-lobbyists emitted tonnes of greenhouse gases this week as carbonated wine corks popped following the victory of the ‘lower-emission’ Labor Party. ‘We’re still drinking bubbly,’ said one pro-renewable energy advocate midweek. The more than 400 businesses operating in the energy efficiency and zero emission industries had despaired for their bottom lines after the Coalition’s Kyoto stand-off had stalled economic incentives to cut greenhouse emissions for 11 years.”

Kyoto does not require we choose between environment and economy

Joseph Biden wrote in a 2001 letter to President Bush – “It’s a false choice to say we need to favor the economy over the environment. Especially given the progress we’ve made in developing the technological knowhow to profit from a shift to cleaner energy production. The previous Administration was successful in working with business and environmental groups toward an agreement that protects both American interests and the world environment. The Bush Administration would have been wise to build upon this success.”[14]

Costs of Kyoto are less than environmental-economic costs of inaction

Joseph Heath. "Fuzzy math dominates Kyoto debate." Montreal Gazette. November 14th, 2002

“When we burn it in fuel, and then breathe it in, we are literally poisoning ourselves. It causes heart and kidney problems in adults, and mental retardation in children. People pay thousands of dollars to have lead-based paint removed from their homes. So when we evaluate the ban on leaded fuel, it is meaningless to look at the costs without also looking at the benefits. In Canada, the ban on leaded fuel led to a 99% reduction in airborne lead emissions.”

Opponents of Kyoto are pandering to the energy industry

Laurie David, Natural Resources Defense Council – “As the world celebrates the global warming pact’s debut, Bush continues to pander to the energy industry.”[15]

Government can cut-back on military spending to pay for Kyoto

Gwyn Prins1 & Steve Rayner. "Time to ditch Kyoto". Nature. 25 Oct. 2007

“It seems reasonable to expect the world’s leading economies and emitters to devote as much money to this challenge as they currently spend on military research — in the case of the United States about $80 billion a year.”

The Kyoto Protocol entails serious economic costs for signatories

Charli E. Coon. "Why President Bush Is Right to Abandon the Kyoto Protocol." Heritage Foundation. May 11, 2001

Andrei Illarionov, Putin’s economic minister – “The Kyoto Protocol is a death pact, however strange it may sound, because its main aim is to strangle economic growth and economic activity in countries that accept the protocol’s requirements.”[16]

“Severe Economic Consequences. The Protocol will drastically raise the price of energy, will cause economic hardship to American workers and families, and will place the United States at a competitive disadvantage.”

Kyoto is a cost-ineffective approach to solving global warming

"The Case Against Kyoto." The Guardian. 21 February 2004.

“Kyoto is among the least cost-effective ways to address climate change. It thus violates the UN framework convention on climate change (to which both Britain and the US are parties), which obliges governments to pursue “cost-effective” measures to address climate change. Our poll found that 70% of Britons believe that the UK should pursue these more cost-effective measures, rather than Kyoto.”

Kyoto Protocol employs inefficient government controls

Alan Keyes, former Assistant US Secretary of State, stated in a Sep. 16, 2000 article titled “Canning Kyoto.” – “It is difficult to know where to begin in listing the evils and dangers of the Kyoto Protocol…[M]assive, inevitably clumsy and arbitrary government intervention to reduce the energy metabolism of the American economy would dramatically reduce — or even reverse — our long-term economic growth.”

Publics do not support paying a major price to fight global warming

S. Fred Singer. "A Stronger Case Against Kyoto". The Independent Institute. 14 May 2001

“while the American public may express concern about global warming, a recent Time/CNN poll indicates that less than half would be willing to pay an additional 25 cents for a gallon of gasoline.”

Kyoto Protocol conflicts with some international trade agreements

Jinnah, Sikina. "Emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol: NAFTA and WTO concerns." Georgetown International Environmental Law Review. Summer 2003

“Conflicts may arise between MEAs, such as the Kyoto Protocol, and international trade agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT)/WTO and the NAFTA.4 Member trade obligations under the GATT/ WTO and NAFTA may restrict freedom to participate in the emissions trading system established under the Kyoto Protocol.5 Members to the GATT/WTO and NAFTA are restricted in their ability to place quantitative barriers to trade (such as quotas, sanctions, and taxes) affecting products or services from other member nations. Conflict may emerge because Kyoto Protocol member nations may only account for emission reduction units (ERUs) created in other Kyoto Protocol member nations. Concern arises about the ability of a country that is member both to the GATT/WTO or the NAFTA as well as to the Kyoto Protocol to place trade restrictions on ERUs created in countries that are member to the GATT/ WTO or the NAFTA but not party to the Kyoto Protocol.”

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