Unlamented Kyoto Protocol staggers into next stage

Tim Groser

The Kyoto Protocol aimed at curbing global greenhouse gas emissions has entered its second stage as only a shadow of itself and generally considered a failure.

The first stage ended at New Year, leaving the world with 58% more greenhouse gases than in 1990, as opposed to the 5% reduction its signatories sought.

Since it was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the protocol’s number of signatories has plummeted with only 36 industrialised mainly European countries plus Australia staying committed.

They account for just 15% of the world’s emissions that are blamed for global warming.

The remainder of the 200 ratifying nations, including New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Russia, have either dropped out or are not covered.

This has labelled the protocol as ineffective because it never included the countries that account for most emissions, such as China, India, Brazil and the US. 

The protocol has always been contentious. Opponents denied the science of climate change and claimed the treaty was a socialist plot. Others decried its lack of ambition and warned of dire consequences for future generations.

Background to Kyoto
The Kyoto Protocol was an initiative that came out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It recognised that climate change was a result of greenhouse gases created by human industrial activity.

The idea was that rich nations, which had already benefited from industrialisation, would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the first part of the treaty and developing nations would join in later.

Although the protocol was adopted in 1997, it didn't to come into force until 2005. In the intervening eight years, countries set reduction targets for themselves and ratified the agreement.

But the seeds of failure were planted at the beginning. The US, the world's biggest emitter at the time, signed up but never ratified.

Other countries, such as Canada, ratified the treaty but had targets that were unachievable

New Zealand’s climate change minister, Tim Groser, announced this country’s decision not to sign on for another stage to 2020 back in November, saying instead it would sign up to the United Nations convention framework from January 1, 2013.

"We will remain full members of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no question of withdrawing," he said at the time.

In December, he announced the government would also join Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a new initiative focused on climate pollutants such as black carbon, as well as greenhouse gases including HFCs and methane.

While the protocol continues with about 200 countries agreeing to extend it at the recent climate change conference in Doha, it is now largely irrelevant as other solutions will be worked out under the UN framework.

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8 Comments & Questions

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I doubt that the UN will resolve anything.


Sceptics don't"deny the science", they question the exaggerated claims for it and the economics of carbon reduction rather than adaptation.

Alarmists misrepresent both the science and the challenges to it. Both tactics are dishonest.


The UN socialist?
Surely not!


Hey in NZ our businessmen & farmers couldn't care less about such things. Our cows and sheep will exude and excrete, our dairy factories, meatworks and salmon farms will churn out "protein to the world" and filth into the rivers and the ocean. As long as the money is rolling in, it's all good. Just been to the spectacular Cathedral Cove: pools of slime from boats and barely any fish seen in the "nature reserve". Who cares, as long our SUVs can pull up at restaurants in town with bright signs and fully stocked with a nice view from afar.


Wow ! Cathedral Cove .

It must have taken you days to walk there.
Bugger those SUVs.


"...the science of climate change..."

Oh you NBR staff make me laugh with your double negation humour!!


"But the seeds of failure were planted at the beginning. "

Well of course, mother nature is not obliging - there has been no global warming for 16 years - even the released IPCC AR5 says so - and this while the infinitesimal levels of CO2, a rare beneficial trace gas has risen.
Time for a new scare for the rent seekers to seek funding for.


Great piece. We've recently put together an infographic that takes data from the PBL and UN to show the shortfalls of the Kyoto Protocol (you can find it here: http://www.infoproductreview.org).

Frankly, the first commitment period has been a sham! I hope the next one will entail real global cooperation, and at least something from the US!


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