Historical Event Report: The Kyoto Protocol

Historical Event Report: The Kyoto ProtocolA climate crisis is looming up ahead of us: Global Warming, an increase of average global temperature due to industrialization.

In the face of this inevitable threat, country leaders met in Kyoto, Japan, on December of 1997, to launch an international treaty that would unite countries all over the world to make our first authentic effort towards combating climate change. The Kyoto Protocol is a list of commitments that stipulates ratified countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. It came into force on February 16, 2005, 8 years after negotiation, due to its requirement that ratifying parties had to have their total emissions added up to be at least 55% of global greenhouse gas productions.

The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce 5% of greenhouse gases emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2012. Of the 190 countries that signed, only 37 ‘developed’ countries took on a reduction target, considering that energy use was essential for the economic growth of the developing. Countries who were unable to reach their targets would need to buy credits from other participants, who had been able to reduce their emissions beyond their target, known as emissions trading.

Since the time of negotiation, many more countries have confirmed their support. As of 2011, 192 countries have ratified. Despite this international endeavor, there is one surprising exception: the United States, one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. They have signed, though a mere signature is insufficient. Then again, many countries that have signed are failing to achieve their objectives.

On December 7th of 2009, the United Nations Climate Summit took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. People anticipated an effective plan to reduce carbon emissions, since it was to be the last major meeting of national leaders before the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. In the brief span of 12 days, international representatives assembled to discuss the possibility of a new global climate treaty, or the renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome was the decision to pledge $100 billion US dollars to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change by 2020. It was also agreed to keep temperature rises below 2°C. Nevertheless, no obligations as to how this would be done were made. Many were disappointed.

Since the establishment of the Kyoto Protocol, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has soared to a drastic record of 31.6 metric tons: forty percent greater than our 1990 levels. While the Kyoto Protocol seems to be failing its purpose, it has achieved what has never been accomplished before: the focusing of global attention onto our climate crisis.

The Kyoto Protocol was not a solution to our climate problems; it was merely our cornerstone in the process of doing so. We are so close yet so far, and even though it seems like we have already come a long ways, the Kyoto Protocol serves only as the beginning of many more steps to come.

Submitted by: Julie Xinyi Chen ISNS Secondary Student

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