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The Kyoto Protocol. Reaching Global Agreements 1997. Key Idea – only the one. Environmental abuse has serious consequences. Its causes need to be tackled to ensure a more sustainable future. But there are still 3 sections to study …. Section 3 (new).

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the kyoto protocol

The Kyoto Protocol

Reaching Global Agreements 1997

key idea only the one
Key Idea – only the one
  • Environmental abuse has serious consequences. Its causes need to be tackled to ensure a more sustainable future.
  • But there are still 3 sections to study …..
section 3 new
Section 3 (new)
  • Managing the causes (anti-pollution legislation, alternative energy sources, international cooperation) and adapting to the consequences of global warming and climate change.
  • A case study of attempts to tackle the problems of global warming and climate change (eg UN conference at Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto Protocol and its successor).
what is the kyoto protocol
What is the Kyoto Protocol?

A global Agreement that set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions

175 countries signed up

Participation in the Kyoto Protocol, as of June 2009, where dark green indicates the countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, grey is not yet decided and red is no intention to ratify
kyoto protocol aims
Kyoto Protocol Aims:
  • Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aimed at combating global warming.
  • The aim of the treaty was "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system."
  • The Protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on 16 February 2005
Under the Protocol, 37 industrialized countries (called "Annex I countries") commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and also fluorine gas compounds.
  • Annex I countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from the 1990 level. Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping (in the too-hard box)
there were a number of articles that set out to achieve this
There were a number of ‘Articles’ that set out to achieve this
  • Article 2: ways to fight GHG
  • 2.1.a.i Enhance energy efficiency
  • 2.1.a.ii Protect and enhance the sinks
    • A carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases whilst a carbon source is anything that releases more carbon than they absorb.
  • 2.1.a.iii Promote sustainable agriculture – by promoting farming methods that produce less GHG, especially in developing countries
  • 2.1.a.iv Research and promote renewable energy sources (wind, water, solar, biomass)
article 2 1 a v

Article 2.1.a.v

In some countries government policies or loopholes in subsidy regulations actually promote \'bad practice\' in GHG emissions. Phase these out will push business and industry towards less polluting practices.

Article 2.1.a.vii

Limit GHG from transport

Phase out any incentives for ‘bad practice’

GHG from transport is a big problem and getting bigger. Several government initiatives around the world have already arisen from Kyoto to cut transport GHG emissions.

The development of dual fuel and electric vehicle technologies holds a great potential for cutting down this source of GHG. Some American states have set targets for clean fuel vehicles.

article 2 1 a viii

Article 2.1.a.viii

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, having about 20 times the climate forcing effect of carbon dioxide. Big man-made producers of methane are landfill sites

Large landfill sites now commonly have these methane power stations which have the double attraction of producing energy and getting rid of the methane, albeit a carbon dioxide. Solid waste energy plants already operate successfully in the UK, using the methane generated from chicken manure to create power

Limit methane emissions through recovery and use

article 2 1 b

Article 2.1.b

A theme which runs through much of the Kyoto protocol is for countries to cooperate. Sharing both advances in GHG technology and science. the greatest achievement of the protocol so far is to get so many countries together and talking on a central issue.

Article 2.2.


Cut GHG from aviation

This one was never implemented as no-one could decide who would monitor it as international travel made an agreement to hard to reach.

article 2 3

Article 2.3.

A cautionary note in Kyoto is to be careful of the wider impacts GHG reduction schemes may have. Some may be too costly to maintain for the benefit they provide, others may cause an unreasonable degree of disruption to the populace, industry etc.

Hydroelectric dams are a good example of this. At first sight they seem to be all to the good as far as reducing GHG goes. However, not only does their construction often mean the loss of much land,and the displacement of its animals and humans, it can also end it up to be quite a big GHG emitter. Much of the organic matter washed into the lake behind the dam decays anaerobically in the depths, rather than aerobically as it would have done in the original river. This anaerobic break down produces lots of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than the normal CO2.

Be careful of wider impact - avoid adverse effects

article 3 1

Article 3.1

This article states that countries will stick to their agreed commitments, but does not specify what the penalties will be if you don’t. The EU and others wanted real penalties for failure, but other countries disagreed. This was one of the sources of contention over which the EU finally gave in to at the Bonn conference.

Keep to assigned amounts of GHG with overall worldwide reduction by at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012

Article 3.2

Everyone must have shown progress by 2005

The idea of this target is to get countries actively reducing their emissions before the first commitment period arrives (2008).

article 3 3

Article 3.3

The key problem here was how to establish what changes have occurred, again a source of much wrangling between countries.

Verifiable changes since 1990 in GHG emissions by sources and removals by sinks due to direct human-induced land-use change and forestry can be used to meet commitments

Although cutting emissions from fossil fuels should be the focus of efforts to limit global warming, forestry and land management activities can provide part of the answer. With their being a recognised part of Kyoto GHG balancing - tree planting schemes like this one in Mexico could become commonplace.

article 3 4

Article 3.4

Everyone must supply their level of ‘carbon stocks’ in 1990 so the change since can be estimated. BUT what sinks, sources and ‘additional activities’ which can be added or subtracted from GHG reduction commitments?

article 4

Article 4

Article 5

Countries can meet their commitments together

All countries will have in place, at least a year before the first commitment period (2008), a national system for measuring GHG emission changes


The carbon budget for the earth as a whole is extremely complex, but our best models of the system suggest an increase in carbon in the atmosphere of about 3Gt per year. These kind of budgets need to be formulated as accurately as possible for each country

article 6

Article 6

This is one of the so called \'flexibility mechanisms\' designed to help rich (annexe 1) countries meet their Kyoto commitment other than by directly cutting in their own emissions. It caused some of the biggest arguments , but it is agreed that without them the agreed reduction targets would have had to have been much smaller.

Russia, currently going through economic instability but with a range of ‘dirty’ technology has been a large recipientof investment from the west, that then claim the savings made in emissions to off-set their own

Joint implementation - Countries can work together to meet their emission reduction targets

article 7

Article 7

Article 8

All countries will supply the extra information needed with the numbers it gives i.e. perceived wider impacts

All the information given by each country will be reviewed by expert, independent, review teams

article 9

Article 9

Article 10

All countries should develop national and/or regional programmes to both limit GHG emissions and improve the quality of GHG data via consistent methods. Cooperate

The protocol will be regularly reviewed in light of the best information available at the time

article 11

Article 11

The richer countries will provide funds and technology to developing countries to help them better advance towards GHG reduction

article 12

CDM is a scheme

Article 12

This is another \'flexibility mechanisms\' designed to help rich (annexe I) countries meet their Kyoto commitment. The clean development mechanism allows governments or private entities in rich countries to set up emission reduction projects in developing countries. They get credit for these reductions as \'certified emission reductions (CER\'s). This system is different form the Joint Implementation as it promotes sustainable development on developing countries.

CDM can use afforestation (planting somewhere new) and reforestation (replanting where there once was some), or some other emissions reduction project like a rural electrification project using solar panels in a developing country .

[Recall they were also going to pay for not cutting down trees but that was delayed until the implementation of REDD]

The Clean Development Mechanism

article 12 5

Some rules for the CDM are shown above.

Article 12.5

(a) Voluntary participation by each country

(b) Real, measurable, and long-term benefits related to mitigating climate change

(c) Reductions must be additional to those which would occur anyway

article 17

Article 17

The final flexibility mechanism. A tradable carbon credit unit called AAU\'s (Assigned Amount Units) has been proposed which would represent one tonne of CO2 emissions. The advantages of this trading are that it drives countries to better efficiency in their own greenhouse gas emissions. Bur there is a worry that some rich countries will simply \'buy off\' the GHG they produce and not take any action themselves. the idea of a \'cap on the amount of trading has been suggested, but has produced even more argument\'.

Emissions trading - countries can trade in ‘emission units’

kyoto protocol aims1
Kyoto Protocol Aims:
  • Share of CO2 Emissions in 1990
  • Industrialised countries to cut emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008/12
  • Had varying targets EU by 8% and Japan 5% (It is a lower polluter)
  • Countries like Iceland were allowed to increase emissions
problems with signing up
Problems with signing up

Some delayed in signing up to Kyoto such as Russia who signed in 2004

USA initially signed but then withdrew in 2001 following GW Bush’s election (USA emit 25% of world emissions)

how big a problem was the american issue
How big a problem was the American Issue?
  • The US was the biggest emitter at the time (36.1%) - it has since been overtaken by China –
  • So if they were going to continue polluting, why should other countries bother? Small countries efforts would have little overall impact on the total GHG.
  • George W was even saying that climate change was (a) not happening and (b) if there was some variation it was natural.
  • He did however admit that being dependent on foreign (especially Muslim) oil supplies was a security issue and so went full tilt into producing biofuels from corn and soya, offering big money to his farmers to change from food production to biofuel production.
how big a problem was the american issue1
How big a problem was the American Issue?
  • This forced up the world prices of food and encouraged deforestation of the Amazon, to grow soya to feed the beef cattle of the developed world.
  • Meanwhile GW, whose ascent in politics was largely funded by the oil companies, remained friends with the oil barons – not an insignificant issue so far as he was concerned.
  • The Republican Party listened to its other big funders, the transnational companies (TNCs) who could not see the possibilities of more new business from the new technologies, but saw only costs and problems from having anything to do with climate change. So they were and still are all in favour of the no-change policy that opting out of Kyoto allowed them to follow.
so what for the future
So what for the future?

Renewable energy can only supply 10-15% of the UK’s energy needs

Must replace coal fired with nuclear power stations

Building nuclear power plants takes time

what is carbon offsetting
What is Carbon offsetting?
  • Forests and woodland cover 10% of the UK and they absorb CO2 and store it
  • Several UK and EU schemes allow businesses to offset their emissions by planting trees
  • However there is a limit to the amount of CO2 that they can hold and therefore are limited in viability
  • UK woodland removes 4 million tonnes a year
  • UK emits 150 million tonnes it would take a huge increase in woodland to offset all of UK emissions

Biomass fuels

  • Wood fuel
  • Ethanol and bio diesel
  • Alcohol fermented from sugar
  • Oil extracted from soybeans
  • Methane Gas coming from rubbish dumps

Unfortunately these rely on removing plants from the planet thus removing a carbon sink and need to be followed by mass replanting schemes

Growing biofuels reduces the land available to grow food and increases food prices as well as leaving more people liable to an inadequate diet

economic impacts
Economic Impacts

More extreme weather leads to increased costs equal to 1% of GDP

2-3oC rise in temps reducing global economic output by 3%

Poor countries ability to cope would be reduced with lack of basics like water

copenhagen was supposed to be the next step
Copenhagen was supposed to be the next step
  • But no protocol was signed.
  • However, it is not all disaster
    • The Americans are on board
    • The Chinese and the Indians are both committed to reducing the impact of their growth – this does not mean they are cutting emissions in total but for each unit of production, the emission will be reduced substantially
    • The Brazilians have reduced deforestation for the first time in many years (partly due to the recession, it is true) by 45% on last year but they are committed to reducing deforestation by 80% by 2020.
copenhagen was supposed to be the next step but
Copenhagen was supposed to be the next step but …

It may be worth looking at the stuff on Cancun (COP 16 2010) in the blog

and other article with Cancun – do a search – top right of the page.

Also the Durban round in December 2011, COP 17, at

Also as another example of a current impact: