Kyoto Protocol

Outline the rationale behind and the main provisions of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change for both developed and less developed countries and assess critically the effectiveness of the Treaty

Term Paper, 2009

25 Pages, Grade: 1,5


Index of content

Table of figures

1. Introduction

2. Reasoning for the political action in Kyoto in 1997

3. Main declarations on climate change for developed and less developed countries

4. Assessment of the effectiveness of the Kyoto protocol
4.1. Strengths:
4.2. Weaknesses:

5. Impact of the Kyoto treaty on Germany

6. Conclusion

7. List of literature

Table of figures

Illustration 1: Overview of CO2 emission per capita per country

Illustration 2: Diminishment of the arctic sea ice between 1979 and 2003

Illustration 3: Variance analysis of greenhouse gas emissions

Illustration 4: Overview of annual investment in new renewable energy sources

Illustration 5: Development of sustainable energy sources from 1995 to 2007

Illustration 6: Overview of Germany’s leading position in the clean energy sector

1. Introduction

For many years scientists alert that a climatic change is taking place which is significantly caused by the way human beings are treating their environment. The negative effects of this development had their origin in the end of the 19th respectively in the beginning of the 20th century when the industrialization in many western countries began.1 With the industrial progress over the last 100 years an increasingly amount of greenhouse gases is released into the atmosphere causing the ecological balance to become incrementally out of order. The impact can be already felt today as temperatures are rising and this is likely to bring about changes for nature including the human beings and many other species. Although the global climatic change is unlikely to be stopped medium-term because carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas with the largest quantity in the air, is said to have a 100 years+ lifetime span in atmosphere2, the effects of the worldwide warming can be mitigated.

In the early 1990’s this environmental issue was picked up and first steps for global climate policies were made. In 1997, the diplomatic efforts led to the resolution of the so called Kyoto protocol which obligates the member states to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This result can still today be seen as a milestone in the international climate policy. Therefore, this agreement will be the subject of examination on the following pages. The author will firstly describe the rationale behind the protocol before underlining its main provisions for developed and less developed countries. Moreover, the effectiveness of the treaty will be critically evaluated and finally emphasize will be also given to the impact it has on my home country, Germany.

2. Reasoning for the political action in Kyoto in 1997

When in 1997 many countries from around the world agreed on binding limits regarding the emission of greenhouse gases, there was an urgent need to start fighting against a proceeding global warming process. At the beginning of the new millennium the world population is facing an omnipresent challenge - climate change. In many parts of the world extreme weather phenomenon with its effects can be monitored. What is causing this alarming development?

The answer has to do with the greenhouse effect. That is, the sunlight heats the earth surface and some of the heat is radiated back into space. In the atmosphere there are six greenhouse gases3 that partly trap the heat and reflect some to the earth surface again.4 The atmosphere functions as a protection covering the earth. Without this mechanism the average temperature would be much colder and life probably not possible. Almost all greenhouse gases appear naturally but since the industrialization the quantity of them, in particular carbon dioxide boosted a lot and the more human beings release it into air, the more heat will be trapped and cannot pass through the atmosphere. From 1800 until 1995 measures point out an increase in carbon dioxide on earth of 26%, with a sharp incline in the 20th century.5 Illustration 1 provides an overview of the CO2 emission per capita of 7 countries over a period of 13 years. Whereas in France, Germany and Russia the emission per person felt, the rate went up in countries like India, China, Japan and the U.S. North America, already the biggest CO2 per capita releasing country in the world increased its value even more.

Illustration 1: Overview of CO2 emission per capita per country.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Own design in imitation of, visited on 05.01.2009.

The result of this development is a temperature rise on the earth surface. The world renowned scientific intergovernmental body, set up by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as well as by the World Meteorological Organization calculated that the world temperature between 1906 and 2005 has risen by 0.74 degrees Celsius through the burning of fossil fuels.6 This data goes along with other research findings which stated a change of 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880.7 Furthermore, the years 1995 – 2006 were listed as one of the warmest ones since 1850.8 The Panel also underlines that the temperatures will continue to climb and even if there is no reliable global warming model that can exactly predict the climate in the future, many scientists belief that the range will be between 1.4 in the best case scenario and around 5.8 degree Celsius in the worst case one by 2100.9 Although these changes do not seem disastrous, they are, because the average temperature during the past ice age (circa 11500 years ago) was said to be only 5 degrees Celsius lower compared to today.10 And back in time huge parts of Europe were covered by polar ice. So even relatively small differences in temperature can cause devastating results and due to the greenhouse effect, the rise in temperature can be seen as the trigger of the climate change. Illustration 2 clarifies this fatal development e.g. as the arctic sea ice is diminishing rapidly.

Illustration 2: Diminishment of the arctic sea ice between 1979 and 2003.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: visited on 05.01.2009.

Some of the other effects due to the climate worsening are the meltdown of glaciers, rise of sea level as a result of melting ice caps at the poles (see picture above), the evocation of extreme weather phenomenon, scarcity of resources like water and food due to drought and linked to that possible (heavy) conflicts in the future plus the extinction of flora and fauna species. In short, the outlook does not seem to be bright for the world without doing something against global warming.

In order to fight the present climate development and to offer our succession a livable planet earth, many countries met in Rio de Janeiro to talk about that issue for the first time on a global scale in 1992. The community of states set up long-term goals to stabilize the greenhouse emission. As these agreements were not based on binding targets and the world recognized a need for that, those talks from 1992 were continued and opened out into binding objectives noted in the Kyoto protocol in 1997.

3. Main declarations on climate change for developed and less developed countries

The Kyoto protocol is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and was adopted in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Due to one requirement of ratification (participating countries have to account for at least 55% of the global CO2 emissions) the contract came into force after Russia ratified it in February 2005.

The agreement includes binding objectives for 37 industrialized countries as well as for the European Community to decrease greenhouse gas emissions on average of 5.2% against the level of 1990, between 2008 – 2012.11 (The 5.2% are equivalent to approximately 10% against the level of 2000 and 30% compared to 2010)12 Each of the 37 countries has its own target rate. Illustration 3 highlights the development in greenhouse gas reduction among some of the western countries. In 2006, especially Hungary, Poland and Russia performed better than the original goals set. Germany, Norway and Japan are on their way to reach the objectives but Canada, New Zealand and Australia are (based on 2006 data) still far away to realize the emission targets.

Illustration 3: Variance analysis of greenhouse gas emissions.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Own design in imitation of, visited on 06.01.2009 and, visited on 06.01.2009.

Besides the 37 developed countries the Kyoto contract was also ratified presently by 146 less developed states which, as officially recognized, are less responsible for the heavy release of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and therefore do not have any numerical contract commitments.13 But since all human beings live on one planet, all countries agreed to the convention share a common responsibility to at least try (if not requested) to reduce the causes for global warming (GHG).

The agreements of the Kyoto protocol are characterized by high flexibility concerning its realization. The reduction rate of GHG emissions shall be met over a period of five years (2008 – 2012) with no certain annual goal to reach. Moreover, there are three mechanisms - emission trading, joint implementation (JI) and the clean development mechanism (CDM) - that allow the industrialized countries to exceed their emission levels within the five year period by trading emission allowances (units) with other countries.14 The mechanisms are linked to methodological and reporting requirements. Since these three techniques have an essential influence regarding the achievement of the worldwide emission reduction they will be shortly described below.

The emission trading is only possible between countries having emission guidelines and it refers to the alternative that one country having trouble to fulfill the agreement requirements can buy units from another country emitting less than its reduction goal. The trading is only allowed between countries which implemented a determination and control system for their emissions. The second mechanism, the joint implementation, is not a way of trading pure emissions rather than supporting projects in other developed countries. A country which overruns its set target can enforce a project in a different state that is below its limit and therefore receive a credit over the reduction achieved abroad. The last flexible alternative is called clean development mechanism. It functions similar to the joint implementation except that credits of emissions result from project engagement in less developed countries. The goal is to support the sustainable development of those poorer countries through transfer of capital and technology as well as to offer them an inexpensive way to reduce their emissions.15


1 Frey, G. R.; Wellman, H., Christopher (2005): A Companion to Applied Ethics, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, USA, p. 679, 680.

2 Silver, Jerry (2008): Global Warming and Climate Change Demystified, McGraw-Hill, New York, USA, p. 137, 138.

3 Such gases are: Water, Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitraus oxide, Chlorofluorocarbon and Ozone.

4 Mansharamani, Narain (2006): Greenhouse Effect-Lidar Techniques, Vidya Art Press, Jakhan, India, p. 1

5 Halmann, M. Martin; Steinberg, Meyer (1999): Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Mitigation, CRC Press LLC, Boca Ration, USA, p. 3,4.

6 Bernstein, Lenny et al. (2007): Climate Change, Synthesis Report, [Online] November 1997, p. 8, available at, visited on 05.01.2009.

7, visited on 05.01.2009.

8 Bernstein, Lenny et al. (2007): Climate Change, Synthesis Report, [Online] November 1997, p. 8, available at, visited on 05.01.2009.

9 Bernstein, Lenny et al. (2007): Climate Change, Synthesis Report, [Online] November 1997, p. 23, available at, visited on 05.01.2009.

10 European Communities (2005): Climate Change – what is it all about?, Office Of Official Publications Of The European Communities, Luxembourg, p. 9, found on pdf/climatechangeyouthen.pdf, visited on 05.01.2009.

11, visited on 06.01.2009.

12, visited on 06.01.2009.

13, visited on 06.01.2009.

14 UNFCC Secretariat (2007): Kyoto Protocol Reference Manual on Accounting of Emissions and Assigned Amounts, UNFCC Secretariat, p. 9 et seq., found on reportingandreviewunderthekyotoprotocol/application/pdf/rmfinal.pdf, visited on 06.01.2009.

15 Orford, Margie; Raubenheimer, Stefan; Kantor, Barry (2004): Climate Change, ITDG Publishing, Warwickshire, UK, p. 6.

Excerpt out of 25 pages


Kyoto Protocol
Outline the rationale behind and the main provisions of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change for both developed and less developed countries and assess critically the effectiveness of the Treaty
Grenoble Ecole de Management
Business Ethics
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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693 KB
What impact is it having or is it likely to have in the future in your own home country?
Kyoto Protocol, Environment, Sustainable Development
Quote paper
Christian Baumann (Author), 2009, Kyoto Protocol , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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