Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The main goal of the Kyoto Protocol was that industrialized nations needed to lessen the amount of their CO2 emissions. It was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997, and entered into force on February 16, 2005. Talks begun by the Kyoto Protocol continue in 2021 and are extremely complicated and involves a lot of money and politics.

The Kyoto Protocol mandated that industrialized nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the threat of global warming was growing rapidly. The Protocol was linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol were assigned maximum carbon emission levels for specific periods and participated in carbon credit trading. If a country emitted more than its assigned limit, then it would be penalized by receiving a lower emissions limit in the following period.  Each nation had a different target to meet by that year. Members of the European Union (EU) pledged to cut emissions by 8% while the U.S. and Canada promised to reduce their emissions by 7% and 6% respectively by 2012. The Kyoto Protocol also recognized that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity. Hence, the protocol placed a heavier burden on developed nations than less-developed nations. Developing nations were asked to comply voluntarily, and more than 100 developing countries, including India, were exempted from the Kyoto agreement altogether.

The United States, which had agreed to the original Kyoto agreement, dropped out of the protocol in 2001. They believed that the agreement was unfair because it called for industrialized nations only to limit emissions reductions, and it felt that doing so would hurt the US economy. Things seemed to be going smoothly in 2005 for many countries, including those in the EU. They planned to meet or exceed their targets under the agreement by 2011. But others continued to fall short. The USA and China, two of the world’s biggest emitters, produced enough greenhouse gases to negated any of the progress made by nations who met their targets. In fact, there was an increase of about 40% in emissions globally between 1990 and 2009.

In 2021, the dialogue is still alive but has turned into a complex mess involving politics, money, lack of leadership and bureaucracy. Today, despite various plans and some actions, solutions to the problems of GHG emissions and global warming have not been implemented.

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