The Kyoto treaty is heralded as one of the most significant pieces of global legislation in the fight against climate change helping to make the world a greener place. Having an understanding of the larger political movements taking place in the green debate helps contextualise smaller contributions we should be making individually to reduce our carbon footprint. But what are main objectives of the protocol, what are the biggest challenges and what does the future look like for the Kyoto agreement? Here are the main issues around the treaty…
Background to Kyoto
Kyoto came about as a result of much earlier concern over greenhouse gases, CO2 emissions and the climate change. The Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992 brought together 150 different nations to discuss the key issues – and an agreement was reached that nations would reduce emissions by 2000.
Unfortunately the agreement wasn’t binding or set in law, and emissions continued to rise as a whole. This set the stage for nations to come together again, this time to discuss a binding protocol, in Kyoto.
Key Elements of the Kyoto Treaty
The Controversial Issues
While the vast majority of nations present at the original Kyoto and subsequent Earth Summit meetings acknowledge that climate change is a global threat and measures should be taken to tackle it and agree in principle to the main objectives, only 35 have actually ratified the agreement. This brings into question the whole validity of the protocol. Crucially, the world’s largest carbon emitter, the US, is amongst those who have not ratified the Kyoto Treaty, which means that global emissions aren’t near overall targets.
On a national level, many environmental groups have called for the UK to do more to reduce their carbon output and enshrine their targets into UK law, and not just international legislation. A Climate Change Bill has been introduced as an answer to this.
The Future for Kyoto
So far, with the 2012 targets ever looming, many countries still have some way to go before they meet their agreed targets. One key breakthrough has been the US’s acknowledgement that climate change needs to be tackled urgently. A non-binding agreement was reached in February 2007 at the G8+5 Climate Change Dialogue in Washington, which, it is hoped, will form the follow up treaty to Kyoto.