In 1997, with ever-stronger evidence for an enhanced greenhouse effect driven by human activities, and deepening concern over the impacts the resulting changes in climate might have, over 150 nations came together in Kyoto in Japan to agree the first binding agreement aimed at cutting global greenhouse gas emissions: The Kyoto Protocol. But in 2009 the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen failed to agree on a binding agreement for all nations on reducing emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol was drawn up to set specific targets for reductions in greenhouse gas concentrations in the global atmosphere. Emission restrictions were agreed for the developed world nations. Targets ranged from a 28% cut for Luxembourg to a 27% increase for Portugal, depending on the individual country and its circumstances. The UK committed to a 12.5% cut. To become legally binding the protocol had to be ratified by at least 55 countries which between them accounted for at least 55% of the total 1990 greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries. This happened in February 2005, but without the US or Australia. For more details of the Kyoto Protocol visit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Bonn summit on the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 saying he was sceptical of the science behind global warming and disagreed with the exclusion of major population centres such as China and India. This galled many, as the US, though having only about 5% of the world’s population, produces about a quarter of all humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol is only a small first step to tackling human-induced climate change. It has been estimated that we need to cut global greenhouse emissions by about 60% compared to 1990 levels if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
So, What’s being done? Not nearly enough.
The United Nations Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009, offers the chance for member states to seal an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Watch this space…..
To see current progress on meeting emission reduction targets in the UK visit the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.