Climate Change And The Kyoto Protocol Politics Essay

The Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international agreement that serves to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% by 2012.

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The Protocol was adopted on December the 11th, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and then kicked off on 16 February, 2005. This lengthy timespan was as such due to the terms agreed upon in Kyoto, stating that at least 55 parties had to ratify the agreement and the total combined emissions of the ratifying parties had to equal at least 55% of the global production of greenhouse gases. The official rules as to the implementation of the Protocol are called the Marrakesh Accords as they were agreed on at the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7) in Marrakesh, 2001.

All parties that sign and ratify the protocol are committed to reduce emissions of Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons and Sulphur hexafluoride. Should the participant countries fail to reduce their emissions to target levels, they are required to engage in “emissions trading” (the buying of “credits” from other participating countries that are able to exceed their targets in order to offset the emissions so that the collective target of reduction by 5.2% can still be reached).

Under the Protocol, countries have to monitor and keep exact records of trades carried out. They also are responsible for monitoring the progress towards their emission targets and a compliance system is put in place to ensure that parties meet their commitments as well as helping them do so should they have problems.

The Protocol is designed to assist countries to adapt to the

Negative effects of climate change and it facilitates development and distribution of means that could help counter act the impacts of climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is a crucial movement towards a global fight against the reduction of Greenhouse gases.

As of September 2011, 191 countries have signed and ratified the protocol with the United States being the only nation to have signed but not ratified the protocol.

The Bali Action Plan

The Bali Road Map, formulated in 2007 at the Bali Climate Change conference, consists of a number of decisions that that according to the UNFCCC, “represent the various tracks that are essential to reaching a secure climate future.” The Bali Road Plan incorporates the Bali Action Plan which charted “the course for a new negotiating process designed to tackle climate change”.

All nations at the conference in Bali acknowledged that there is conclusive evidence of global warming and that it is crucial that humans make every possible effort to reduce the risks of the possible severe impacts that climate change could have.

The outcome that was reached recognized that there was a need for “deep cuts in global emissions” and that the emissions of developed countries must fall by 10-40% by the year 2020.

The Cancun Agreements

Settled on December 11 at Cancun, Mexico, the Cancun agreements represent vital steps to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and building a sustainable future.

The objectives of the agreements included:

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions over time so that the global average temperature rise is kept below 2 degrees.

To encourage participation of all countries in reducing the emissions with proportionality to each countries responsibilities and capabilities.

Ensure international transparency of the actions taken by countries.

Making sure that global progress towards the long term goal is reviewed on a regular basis.

Mobilizing the development and transfer of clean technology to boost efforts to counter climate change.

Provide funds in the short and long term to enable developing countries to take greater and more effective action against climate change.

Assist vulnerable people in the world to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Protect the world’s forests which are vital to reducing levels of Carbon dioxide and increasing the levels of oxygen.

Establish effective institutions and systems which will ensure that these objectives are implemented successfully.

(Note: all objectives adapted from )

The agreements were aimed to move the international action on climate change and global warming forward by primarily bringing countries’ greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under the UNFCCC process.


COP17 refers to the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change, while CMP7 refers to the 7th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The COP meets annually to assess and discuss progress in dealing with climate change. They make decisions and adopt resolutions which are all filed in the reports published by the Conference of the Parties.

The 17th conference of the parties (COP17) was held in Durban in December 2011. Its purpose and aim was to build on the agreements that were reached during COP16 in Cancun and to establish a new climate change regime.

Being a developing country, South Africa would like to see a balance between climate and development initiatives as well as global action that ensures that temperature increases are kept below 2degrees Celsius. Another aim was to have countries design institutions to provide developing countries with” adequate and efficient climate support”.

South Africa also planned on showcasing the way in which climate change affects a developing country as well as the responses it has implemented.

At the conference in Durban all goals were eventually reached and decided on with the nations agreeing on:

Adopting a universal agreement on climate change

A framework for the reporting of emission reductions for developed and developing countries.

An urgent support package for developing nations that are suffering the most under the effects of climate change. The package is to include an agreement to form a green climate fund.

“Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol”

On 13 December 2011, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol stating that it did not represent the way forward for them. It seems that Canada has never stood fully behind the Kyoto Protocol as rather than cutting their emissions by 6%, they were headed for a rise of 16-30%.

They stated that should they have decided to remain in the protocol, it would have cost them $13.6 billion in ‘fines’ or penalties seeing as they failed to reach their target. The Canadian government stated that this would result in a severe blow to their economy and could result in either a mass loss of jobs or approximately an additional $1600 per family in tax so as to accumulate the money to be used for emissions trading with nations that exceeded their targets in order to offset the amount so that Canada could in theory have reached their target. Instead the government ducked out early to avoid any cost and slammed the protocol by stating that it fails to include the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters being China and the United States. They said that the protocol only serves to harm hurt Canada’s competitiveness and overall it proves ineffective at reducing global emissions.

The decision was met with disappointed emotions all over, with environment critic Megan Leslie saying that pulling out only saves Canada from having to report on its failures, she went on to say, “What this is really about is the fact that our government is abdicating its international obligations. It’s like we’re the kid in school who knows they’re gonna fail the class, so we have to drop it before that actually happens.”

Elizabeth May, a life long environmentalist and green party leader went on to say that it is unnecessary and that an agreement could most likely have been easily reached. She is quoted as saying, “This is not just big, this is disastrous for Canada, and I’m embarrassed to be represented by this government.”

According to Environment Minister Peter Kent, Canada will now look forward to a more global deal that will incorporate all nations in the fight against climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol means that it is now really only the Europeans that are staying with the Protocol. Canada has now taken a similar stance to the Americans by aiming only to reduce carbon emissions without restricting their growth as a country.

As Greenblog states, their withdrawal doesn’t change much for the fight against reducing carbon emissions as Canada was never really a part of it seeing as their emissions have increased by 20% rather than decreasing. The blog states that “future UN negotiations will certainly become even more polarized and the mistrust created will surely delay, or in worse case even sabotage, efforts to secure a global climate deal for 2020 and beyond. But one thing that is painfully clear now is that a legally binding climate deal does not guarantee countries won’t ignore or walk away from their commitments.”

Their statement is easy to agree with because Canada has now made use of their legal right to walk away. They are now the first country to leave the Protocol and there is no reason why they can’t now be joined by more countries. As the Blog states, this opens up a whole new side to the case involving possible instability and distrust between nations which will need to be overcome should the fight against climate change be successful.

Countries not in favour of the Kyoto Protocol

USA- the USA is not in favour due to the fact that the Protocol does not take into account emissions from developing countries which according to the USA will soon match their own emissions.

Australia has not ratified the protocol saying that- it will not ratify the Protocol until the USA does and until developing countries are included.

Canada has left the Protocol.

Source 1 gives a clear indication of the Participants and the nations not in favour of the Protocol as of 2012.

Source 1

Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Kyoto Protocol participation map 2010.png

Kyoto Protocol participation map as of February, 2012

Green indicates countries that have ratified the treaty

(Annex I & II countries in dark green)

Brown = No intention to ratify[1]

Red = Countries which have withdrawn from the Protocol.[2]

Grey = no position taken or position unknown

South Africa’s position on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

The South African Government have taken a stance on climate change that incorporates the fact that the poor will be most severely affected by it even though they have contributed the least to its causes. Due to Africa’s high level of poverty, they are thus most vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change.

The government believes that Climate change is a global problem, which requires global solutions, which can only be attained through the cooperative efforts of all nations and not by a single country working on its own.

The government set objectives which are outlined in the National Climate Change Response White Paper. These objectives can be briefly understood as being:

To help and support all South Africans affected by Climate Change and to respond to the impacts of it in doing so.

To work together with all nations in the international effort to lessen and end the effects of climate change.

South Africa agrees with global scientific opinions which have stated that it is vital that the average global temperatures don’t rise any more than 2 degrees so as to avoid possible social and environmental consequences.

As a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, South Africa contributes its fair share in the fight to lower the global amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted. However they are classified as a developing country and hence they are not subjected to the more demanding commitments placed on developed countries.

South Africa has taken an interesting approach toward the greenhouse gas reduction efforts by stating that they believe these efforts should work in tandem with an approach that empowers the poor thus ensuring human dignity while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. This furthers their initial beliefs of he fact that the poor population on the African continent have contributed the least yet suffer the most.

The media has not made much of Africa’s position on the Kyoto Protocol. What we can however gather from previous sources is that nearly all African countries have signed and ratified the treaty. All countries in Africa are also classified as developing, and hence they are subject to less demanding targets for their emission reductions. What we have also learnt is that Africa, because of its poverty, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and hence it is in the continents best interest that all countries support the global problem of climate change so as to lessen the effects it has on Africa as a continent.

Africa should be of a similar belief as South Africa, which is that the poor have contributed least to climate change yet they suffer the most. With this belief, the continent will go a long way to the fight against both poverty and climate change.

Somerset College and Climate Change

In my opinion there are two main areas of Somerset College that may lead to high carbon emissions. The first area is very direct as it relates to the transport the school uses as well as the vehicles that bring students to and from school everyday. Somerset College sees hundreds if not thousands of cars pass through its gates daily and these cars are responsible for releasing carbon monoxide gases into the air. Not only does it harm our environment but it contributes to a high amount of carbon emissions that affect climate change.

The second area involves Somerset College’s Administration and printing system that is responsible for printing many hundreds of pages of paper for school and admin purposes on a daily basis. This indirectly affects climate change as paper is made from trees that produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air. In this way, carbon emissions won’t decrease and hence it makes the school indirectly responsible for letting out carbon emissions.

Somerset College have however started moving towards a greener future by printing less and less paper and making everything electronic. They also don’t make use of air conditioners and instead use fans. Electricity to certain parts of the school is provided by solar panels and the school has implemented bus services to lessen the amount of vehicles on the property. They have also installed new hot water geysers around the school that reduce energy consumption by nearly fifty percent when compared with the old ones. The school also has an eco-club which ensures that the school is always striving to do what is best for the environment.