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> The Kyoto protocol Issue: 2009-1 Section: Other



The Kyoto Protocol

The Protocol of Kyoto is an international accord initialed in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997. This protocol constituted the first international accord aimed at the reduction of noxious gases. With the objective to reduce the CO2 emissions by 5% 73 countries have become signatories to this pact. Nearly all countries have ratified the pact including Japan and all 15 European Union States, but with some notable exceptions. The accord went into effect in February 2005, thanks to the approval of the Russian president Vladimir Putin in 30th September 2004. In fact, although over 55 countries had ratified the agreement overall the quota of emissions didn’t reach 55%; so Russia, responsible for 17% of the emissions, has been conclusive for the approval of the Protocol.


The Russian position

This provoked a great opposition in Russia, because this country takes 64.70% of its own energy requirement from combustible fossils, so they think that this approval of the Protocol would provoke serious problems to the Russian economy. But the combustion of the coal has created many environmental problems: for example atmospheric pollution and the effect of the acid rain on the ecosystem. Fortunately recent reforms encourage investments in environmental field and the diffusion of less polluting technologies; some cities have affected plans for environmental protection for a long time term. In end, in the last years, a greater use of natural gas has lowered the levels of atmospheric pollution.


The European Union position

The European Union is a large player that firmly supports the Protocol and has ratified it, has been working frantically to keep support for the Kyoto Protocol in place.

Europe is a relatively small, densely populated, developed zone that does not have access to its own low-cost sources of fossil fuel or hydro power. Setting aside environmental considerations, Europe sees economic advantages for itself if the protocol were put into effect.

The EU produces around 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has agreed to a cut of on average, by 8% from 1990 emission levels. The European Commission announces plans for an European Union energy policy that included a unilateral 20% reduction in Greenhouse Gases emissions by 2020. The EU has consistently been one of the major nominal supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, negotiating hard to get wavering countries on board. In December 2002, the EU created an emissions trading system in an effort to meet these tough targets.


The south Korean and the Vietnamese position

South Korea is a developed country and a High-income OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) member, classified as an Advanced economy by the CIA and IMF. Korea Joined the Kyoto Protocol 8th-11-2002. Vietnam is one of the 111 countries to have signed the Kyoto Protocol. Vietnam has recently completed a study to guide its participation in the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) under the Kyoto Protocol allow the transfer of certified emissions reductions (CERs) from developing countries such as Vietnam to certain developed countries.). As these 2 states signed the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to its terms, but they couldn’t join on Annex 1. Instead of this, they can invest (or European states can do that) in the CDM, so these states have a primary role in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).


The American position

The USA drew worldwide criticism for failing to adopt the greatest international agreement for the reduction of some greenhouse gases, The Kyoto protocol, which has been accepted by nearly every other country. This is despite the fact that the USA is by far the world’s biggest polluter. President Bush repeatedly stated that he would not adopt such protocol if they harmed American economy. Commercialism and greed overcame all common sense and thought for the welfare of future generations. This failure caused hatred not only for the Bush administration, but to American commercialism in general. The US contains 4% of the world’s population but produces about 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions. By comparison, Britain emits 3% - about the same as India which has 15 times as many people. But why American didn’t support the Kyoto Protocol? The answer is corporate payback.

This has been the defining trait of President’s Bush administration. His election was a straightforward capitalist venture for the energy corporations. Oil, gas, coal and nuclear companies are the power behind Bush; together they donated more than 50 million dollars to put him in the White House. As soon as he was elected, it was payback time and Bush declared the Kyoto Protocol on reducing carbon-dioxide emissions dead and buried.

The message was: US corporations have the right to pollute the entire planet. The people and the environment don’t matter.

With the election of Obama, a new way is opened because his electoral campaign wasn't financed by lobbies but by common citizens, so the new President has to give reasons for his actions only to American citizens and to no-one else.


The Chinese position

China signed Kyoto Protocol in May, 29 1998 and ratified it in August, 30 2002 but the country is not included in any numerical limitation of the treaty because it was not a main contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions during the pre-treaty industrialization period.

In the period 1950 to 2002, China’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil sources accounted for only 9.33% of the global total. This level is increased hugely in the last years and in 2007 took the rate of 24% of the global total. The country was so first in the list of states by carbon dioxide emissions. It seems that a lot of the emissions derives from the coal-fired power station which generates about two thirds of electricity of the country. In response to critics of the nation's energy policy, China responded that those criticisms were unjust and that the level of emissions is justified by the country’s electricity consumption.

On 4 June 2007 China publicated the first National Action Plan on Climate Change.

The plan does not include targets for carbon dioxide emission reductions, but it has been estimated that, if fully applied, China's annual emissions of greenhouse gases would be reduced by 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2010.


Conclusion to the pollution problem

Climate change is considered the major environmental issue today.

Conventional wisdom suggests that it will be devastating for the environment and humanity. To counter it, first of all, we have to change our habits, adopting simpler lifestyle that will create less pollution, but this surely is not enough.

In fact we can’t think that is possible to reduce meaningfully pollution’s level by changing our habits only, even though it is also important.

The main pollution producers are factories and without their contribution to the reduction of polluting substance emission, our engagement would all be in vain.

An Engagement from all the states is also necessary for investment in new types of non-polluting technologies, beyond the several interests that there are behind the use of fossil-fuel system because the main interest that all we must have is first of all our heart, then our health and that of the future generations.


To this article worked: V. Sapia, E. Indelicato, L. Arcidiacono, G. Longo, R. Tommaso, M. Vincenzo, S. Grassia, S. Grasso, G. Luca, L. Coppola, V. Salvatore, F. Borzi.