Draft 8: Are there Alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol for the US?

This topic submitted by Daniel Fogarty, Andy Shafer ( DoNotExhale@yahoo.com ) on 3/21/02 .

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

     The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement between 106 countries (and their territories) to reduce anthropogenic sources of CO2 emissions. The increase of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere due to human activity is certain. The Protocol acknowledges the growing awareness of the anthropogenic roots behind global climate change. The US government's own data agrees with this now accepted notion. What is in question is if these increases in atmospheric GHG concentrations can create a disturbance in global climate patterns. It is in our opinion that a certain amount of accountability and responsibility comes with the awareness and acknowledgement of anthropogenic causes of global climate change, complete with its unpleasant forecasts.

     Therefore, our question is this: What are some courses of action that would reduce CO2 emissions in the US, while not creating large economic or social disturbances? With the G.W. Bush administration "killing" the Protocol, does the US have a responsibility towards curbing emissions? By looking at benefit/cost analyses of the backers (and the killers) of Kyoto, examining data regarding carbon sinks, and by citing public perceptions (through polls and editorials) in both the US and abroad, we will be able to support our hypothesis that it is a possibility (and necessary) for the US to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. It is also our goal to expand the awareness of individuals and their potentially significant role in reducing CO2 emissions.

Where did the Kyoto Protocol come from?

     In June, 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, 27 principles were adopted. Among the goals in this historic accord include: to reduce unsustainable practices worldwide; to eliminate disparities between countries (accompanied by the concession that developed countries have an obligation to assist developing countries); to strive for cooperation in the conservation, protection and restoration of Earth's ecosystems; to include input from ALL "concerned citizens" in regard to environmental issues; to hold states responsible for the enactment and enforcement of responsible environmental legislation; to respect and encourage the input of marginalized populations-the Indigenous and others outside the benefits of current economic systems; to encourage the participation and development of the world's youth in understanding the complex environmental issues facing the world today; and the acknowledgement that war is detrimental to these efforts and, conversely, that peace and justice promote these ideals.*

     In October of 1988, at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization. Here, many climate scientists and government representatives reported and reviewed the latest scientific data regarding climate change.

     In August of 1990, the IPCC released the "First Assessment Report". This document concluded that human activities were increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG's). It also stated that the increased concentrations would result in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect. Its conclusions were followed by the recommendation of a 60-80% reduction in GHG emissions. These results led to the agreement that an international treaty was needed that would be directed at curbing GHG's. In 1991, the first negotiating session of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held just outside Washington. In May of 1992, negotiations were completed. This resulted in Annex I countries, the 34 countries that make up the industrialized world***, agreeing to reduce their CO2 emission levels to those emitted in 1990. The United States, though, refused to make this target and timetable legally binding, forcing more progressive nations to compromise their positions in order to get the US on board. These compromises involved allowing the buying and trading of CO2 emission allowances, carbon sinks counting towards reductions, and carbon credits for helping non-Annex I countries to develop 'clean' industries. The UNFCCC also established the Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP is the body responsible for keeping the Convention under review and making decisions necessary for implementation. The COP consists of the nations that ratified the Convention. The UNFCCC was adopted on May 9 and was opened for signing at the Rio Earth Summit in June.

     In June of 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development(UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, these principles were upheld and enhanced. The framework from the Principals developed in 1972 was the building block for the next declarations made in Rio (called the Earth Summit). Here, five major agreements were reached: Agenda 21, which is a plan concerning the sustainable development of third World countries; the Rio Declaration itself, which restates the 27 principles laid out in Stockholm; The Biodiversity Treaty, "a binding international agreement aimed at strengthening national control and preservation of biological resources" (see UNCED link, above); The Statement of Forest Principles, "a non-binding agreement on development, preservation, and management of the Earth's remaining forests"** (see UNCED link, above); and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, "a binding international agreement that seeks to limit or reduce emissions of gases, mainly carbon dioxide and methane, associated with the potential for global warming." (see UNCED link, above) Continuing from this Earth Summit, a series of worldwide conferences were held.

     On March 21, 1994, the Convention was entered into force following the 50th member ratification. From March 28 to April 7, 1995, the initial meeting of convention members, COP-1, was held in Berlin. Here, it was agreed that the original emission goals for the Annex I countries were not sufficient, though new targets could not be agreed upon. This dilemma resulted in the Berlin Mandate. This was a statement that acknowledged the need to develop a new negotiation process regarding CO2 emissions that could be applied globally. This process/methodology was agreed to be designed by COP-3. It also stated that the negotiating process would not introduce any new commitments for developing countries, but would look for ways to accelerate implementation of their existing obligations under the Convention to implement measures to mitigate climate change.

     In December, 1995, the IPCC released the "Second Assessment Report". This restated the conclusions met in its first report, in 1988, but added that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence" on global climatic change. It also predicted that these effects would pose a greater risk to the world's most impoverished peoples. These findings were instrumental in the development of the Kyoto Protocol.

     In July of 1996, the COP-2 was held in Geneva. There was very little progress made towards meeting new negotiating policies, but the US committed to legally binding emission standards (again tying to this the desire to include emissions trading as part of any negotiations). The conclusions reached during COP-2 resulted in the The Geneva Declaration. This document stressed the urgency for action in reduced global emissions of CO2. It also stated that binding emission reductions should be negotiated by COP-3 in Kyoto.

     Negotiations for COP-3 took place in March, July-August, and October 1997. During these sessions, many new proposals were brought to the table, with the general goal of reducing CO2 emissions to 1990 levels and then to work on reducing them further over time. **** The conclusions reached during this time showed that more time was needed in researching economically feasible ways to reduce overall emissions of GHG's. It was also noted that there needed to be flexible policies directed at curbing developing country's emissions, in this way, economic growth would not be stifled by mandatory emission reductions.

     COP-3 took place in Kyoto at the beginning of December, 1997. Here, on December 11, the UNFCCC adopted the Kyoto Protocol. It was now agreed that there would be a legally binding reduction in global emissions of CO2.

*There may be some argument with the openly anthropocentric statements in Principles 1, 2, and 9. Here, it is stated that humans are to be central to development, intranational levels of exploitation are up to individual nations, and that science and technology should be shared and used to enhance development.
**This agreement is "non-binding", allowing countries to exploit their forest reserves as they see fit.
***Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America. Since that time, Belarus, Croatia, Lithuania, Turkey, and Ukraine have been added to this list. In the Kyoto Protocol itself, these countries are called Annex B countries, with some additional countries and some omissions as well.
****Each country could establish there own timeline and reduction levels beyond the 1990-levels goal.

What has become of the Protocol?

Buenos Aires Plan of Action was designed. This document was the first attempt at implementing the Kyoto Protocol, and discussed the methodology of compliance with the agreement. It also set the deadline for these measures to finalized by COP-6.

     COP-5 took place in Bonn between October 25 and November 5, 1999. Here, negotiations intensified regarding policy and procedure of emission trading and "Clean Development Mechanism" (the plan to receive credits towards CO2 emissions for helping developing countries establish green industries). Here most industrialized nations (with the exception of the US) called for quick ratification of the Protocol, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio.

     November 13-24, 2000, COP-6 was held in The Hague, Netherlands. Negotiations grew tense as the US and Europe could not agree on the amount of credits a nation could receive from emission trading and the employment of carbon sinks. The talks collapsed after the U.S. and Europe failed to reach an agreement on the amount of credits toward meeting emissions targets they could claim from emissions trading and carbon sinks. Europe accused the US of not actually attempting to reduce emissions, but instead that they were trying to reach the goals set at COP-3 through the manipulation of credits. It was agreed to resume COP-6 in July, 2001 in Bonn.


With the George W. Bush administration, the US's involvement with the Kyoto Protocol came to a close. In March 2001, President Bush declared that "Kyoto is dead" along with stating that the US would not even vote on ratification of the treaty.

     In July 2001, delegates from signatory countries (with the exception of the US) met in Bonn, to finalize rules surrounding the enforcement of the Protocol. The final agreements resulted in a watered down version of the original Protocol. This was due to the desire to have any agreement pass, considering all the years of work and negotiation that had been invested. The US abandoning the treaty really took the heart of the effort. With the US (the global leader in GHG emissions) out of the agreement, the document is nearly irrelevant.

     While G.W. Bush stated that the US can reduce emissions without having to enter into the treaty, it is just another sign of the G.W. Bush administration's unwillingness to support environmental policy. In fact, there are now many examples of the G.W. Bush administration stripping away environmental protections, and not just with emissions. As mentioned, the Kyoto Protocol is considered dead by G.W.Bush. This is not surprising considering the negotiations behind the Protocol took place mostly during the Clinton administration, with Vice President Al Gore being the "author" of the US's role in COP-3.


Agenda 21
Bonn Conference
Buenos Aires Conference
Bush Declaration
Dirty New Secret
Dirty Tricks
Esso's Case
Kyoto Negotiations Collapse
Kyoto Protocol
Rio Declaration
Thessaloniki Conference
Al Gore Report
Irrelevant Treaty


Green Groups Reject Bush Global Warming Plan
Last update: February 20, 2002
The President's plan is no plan at all, according to analysis by Natural
Resources Defense Council:

* The plan's non-binding goal is to reduce "emissions intensity" (emissions relative to economic output) by 18 percent over the next 10 years. Yet from 1990 to 2000, emissions intensity fell 17.4 percent.
* Based on the president's own projections, emissions would increase 14 percent over the next ten years -- precisely the rate at which they grew during the last ten years.

Additional reaction:
* Environmental Defense: "'Bold New' Proposal On Climate Is Neither 'Bold' nor 'New'"
* Environmental Defense: "Bush Administration Plan Increases Greenhouse Gas
* Redefining Progress: "President Bush's Climate Change Plan is Seriously Flawed and is Based on the Fallacy that Climate Action Will Harm the U.S. Economy"
* Pacific Institute: "Bush Plan Will Increase Dangers of Climate Change; U.S. Water Supply at Risk"
* Republicans for Environmental Protection: "Bush Climate Plan Only a Baby Step, Green GOP Group Says"
* David Suzuki Foundation: "Bush Alternative to Kyoto a Step Backwards in Global Warming Fight"
* National Parks Conservation Association: "Bush Administration's Clear Skies Plan Falls Short of National Park Needs"
* A statement and report by National Environmental Trust asserts that the Bush plan is based on a failed DOE voluntary reporting program set up by the first President Bush.
* Sierra Club: "Bush Gives Valentine's Day Gift to Polluters"
* World Wildlife Fund has experts available to comment.

* The Economist: "Blowing Smoke"
* L.A. Times: "A Too-Dirty Clean Air Plan"

For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site: http://www.globalwarming.org/Kyoto/ . Next Article
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