What is Kyoto Protocol and what is its significance?
What is Kyoto Protocol?
Kyoto protocol is the treaty signed between 191 developed and developing countries (as of october 2010) to reduce the emission of green house gases into the atmosphere. In December 1997, a group of 160 nations met at Kyoto, Japan to frame a treaty which could address the problem of global warming to a global platform and that could act as deterrent for signing nations to pollute the environment.
In the 1980s, scientific evidences confirmed the rapid rate of global warming and environmental pollution that was caused due to uncontrolled emission of green house gases into the atmosphere specially carbon dioxide. Need was felt to control the emission of these gases to slow down the rate of global warming.
The Treaty was formally signed by 15 European Union member nations in June 2002. After that Japan signed the treaty. It was must for at least 55 industrialized nations which contributed minimum of 55% of total emissions in 1990s to sign the treaty before it could take effect. With the 2002 passing, 70 countries had already signed the protocol to fulfill the first requirement.
The majority of the countries that signed the protocol were developing countries which contributed less than 55% of the 1990s emission. United states of America, which was responsible for 36% of the total emission in 1990s backed off making it crucial for the industrialized nations to sign the treaty to cross the 55% emission mark.
After the Kyoto protocol, differences occurred between the industrialized and developing nations to follow the emission norms. The requirement was to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane and chlorofluorocarbons by the end of year 2012 to a level below that of 1990. It was left up to developing nations whether to sign the treaty or not.
Carbon emission trading was introduced to help developing and developed nations to maintain their sustainable growth while fulfilling the objective. It allowed buying and selling of carbon emission credits between the nations who were part of Kyoto Protocol. A country which emits less carbon dioxide into atmosphere than the allowed limit can sell their credit to a country which approached the emission limit.
A Controversial Treaty:
Kyoto Protocol has always been in controversy since its inception. In the year 2001, US President George Bush suddenly backed out from the treaty stating that the treaty would hit the US economy and job cuts. It was criticized by other member nations as there was no visible threat to US economy with the Kyoto treaty as Germany had successfully reduced its carbon emission without affecting the economy.