13th December 2007
In 1992 150 nations met in Rio for an Earth Summit and signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This document indicated that all developed nations would try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by the year 2000. As the pledge was not binding levels were not reduced at all - if anything they increased.
The sensible thing to do would have been for the signatories of the UNFCCC to get in touch with each other by telephone or e-mail, agree to make the reduction in such emissions binding and get on with the job. But no! The signatories decided that they had to convene a further summit to establish a Protocol that would be binding on all developed nations. This led to a meeting in Kyoto in December 1997 and on the 11th of December the Kyoto Protocol was established.
Essentially the signatories to the Protocol accepted that emissions of Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide would be reduced to 1990 levels by 2012 and levels of Hydro Fluorocarbons, Per Fluorocarbons and Sulphur Hexa Fluoride would be reduced to 1990 or 1995 levels by the same year.
Some issues remained unresolved and a 2 year action plan was agreed with a deadline of the year 2000. In November 1998 a meeting took place in Buenos Aires whereat the unresolved issues were further discussed but, not surprisingly, remained unresolved still. Thus a further get together was agreed to be necessary and that took place in The Hague from the 13th to the 24th November 2000.
The Kyoto Protocol was available for nations to sign up to from March 1998 but could not come into force, 'be ratified' I believe is the proper term, until sufficient developed nations had signed up to it that together accounted for 55% of the total worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. In general the more prosperous a nation is the more carbon emissions it creates, often a result of the use of modern transport means and indulgence in energy demanding home comforts. Such countries tend to avoid radical reductions in emissions as politically unacceptable and seek loopholes created by certain clauses in the Kyoto Protocol that related to 'trading' and 'joint implementation'. These clauses allowed a country that exceeded its reduction in emissions to make that surplus available to another country and also accounted for strategies where a country may fund an emission reducing project in another country and claim a percentage of the resultant reduction as its own.
The Kyoto Protocol became a legally binding treaty on 16th February 2005 after Russia ratified the Protocol in November of the previous year. The USA and Australia have not ratified the Protocol. Both China and India are excluded because they are considered to be 'developing' countries, not 'developed' countries within the meaning of the Protocol but have ratified it insofar as they are required to report their emission levels.
From the outset, the Kyoto Protocol and its intentions were not likely to adequately address the problems, which many scientists had defined and tried to quantify. Furthermore the whole basis is still open to debate as there are those who do not accept the underlying scientific arguments. The UN predicted that emissions far from reducing, were expected to be 10% higher than 1990 levels by 2010
So delegates have been to Rio, Kyoto, Buenos Aires and The Hague over a period of 8 years and subsequently by 2007 don't seem to have made any progress in reducing any emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels! There's only one think to do, have another conference - somewhere like Bali perhaps!!!
More next month.
13th December 2007