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The pros and cons of the Kyoto Protocol
Thursday, 08 September 2011 21:04
kyoto protocol

The pros and cons of the Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement signed to the UnitedNations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, Convention). The mainaim of the Kyoto Protocol is to set green house gas (GHG) emissions reductiontargets for different countries. Commitments according to the Kyoto Protocolare set for the period of time 2008-2012. After this period a new agreement hasto be reached on international level within UNFCCC process during meeting ofthe Conference of Parties of the Convention. The obligations under the KyotoProtocol are taken by the countries on voluntarily basis. For the KyotoProtocol to be implemented on national level in many states it has to beratified by empowered authorities to be considered as the part of nationallegislation by law (like in Ukraine - International treaties that are in force, agreed to be binding by theVerkhovna Rada (Parliament) ofUkraine, are part of the national legislation of Ukraine – article 9 ofthe Constitution of Ukraine:

The pros of the KyotoProtocol

- It sets GHG emissions reduction targets – limit for the anthropogenicemissions that have negative anthropogenic impact on climate change (Human activities contribute to climate change by causing changes inEarth's atmosphere in the amounts of greenhouse gases, aerosols (smallparticles), and cloudiness. The largest known contribution comes from theburning of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide gas to the atmosphere. - IPCC Fourth AssessmentReport: Climate Change 2007:

- The protocol invents economically justified mechanisms to reduce GHGemissions, so that the countries which have obligations according to the Kyotoprotocol to reduce GHG can opt to pay lower price for the GHG reduction inother countries. The price for the GHG reduction in some countries is less andleads to the emission reduction on global level.

The contras of theKyoto Protocol

- The existing Kyoto Protocol is signed and ratified by certain amount ofcountries. The total percentage of Annex I Parties (developed countries) emissionsis 63.7%. These are the parties that have GHG emission reduction targetsproportionally to the base year, established by the Kyoto Protocol (Status ofRatification of the Kyoto Protocol: As the result –the countries which are responsible for great part of the word's emissionshave no obligation according to the Kyoto Protocol. Among the biggest GHGemitters in the world – USA hasn't ratified Kyoto Protocol and is not obligedto reduce GHG emissions according to the international agreement within theUNFCCC process. And there are no international instruments in the UNFCCC orKyoto Protocol how to force or convince countries to take certain obligationson international level.

- Fast growing economies like China, India are among the developingcountries which have no obligations according to the Kyoto protocol andpractically can continue to develop without implementing environmentaltechnologies and emitting great amount of GHG. Indicators show that thesecountries contribute to climate change in considerable degree and internationalcommunity has to invent ways of lowering GHG emissions in these countries todeal with climate change problem.

- Some countries which are historically responsible for climate change(for example developed countries with economy in transition, like Ukraine) infact have no obligation to reduce GHG as in 1990 (base year in the KyotoProtocol) they emitted much more emissions than in 2008-2012 because of the bigeconomy recession after 1990's. According to the Kyoto Protocol Ukraine is obligedto stabilize GHG emission on the level of 1990 which means factual growth ofthe emissions, as today's Ukraine's GHG emissions are 54% less than theemissions in 1990 (Overview of GHG reduction potential in Ukraine. Julia Ogarenko. Edited by О. Pasiyk, І Stavchuk. National EcologicalCenter of Ukraine – NECU, 2010: the result Ukraine has an opportunity to develop and increase the level ofGHG emission. At the same time level of GHG emissions proportionally to grossnational product in Ukraine is extremely high and Ukraine is among world'sleaders for the indicators of carbon economy intensity (Overview of GHGreduction potential in Ukraine. JuliaOgarenko. Edited by О. Pasiyk, І Stavchuk. National EcologicalCenter of Ukraine – NECU, 2010: problems of energy saving are very urgent in housing and other sectors ("Energy conservation in Ukraine: legal aspects andpractical implementation". M. Bulgakova, M.Prystupa. – Rivne: publisher O.Zen, 2011: – and there are noincentives to solve these problems on national level when internationalagreement do not oblige to reduce the level of GHG emissions and even allow tosell GHG emissions quotas, which appeared because of economy recession and notbecause of the GHG reduction state policy. As the result Ukraine remains among the most energy inefficient countries, citizens of Ukraineare not aware about the consequences of climate change because they do notthink this is a crucial problem.

- Controlling schemes of Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms implementationare not perfect. There are examples when Kyoto revenues, received from assignedamount units trading between different states are spent on different purposeswhich do not lead to GHG emission reduction and are not even connected withenvironmental issues. Thus implementations of the Kyoto Protocol flexiblemechanisms do not lead to GHG emission reduction and realization of the purposeof the UNFCCC. Without mechanisms to ensure the effective enforcement and compliancewith international obligations, the commitment to mitigate climate change isbasically void.

- The issue of the compliance with the international obligations is alsocrucial. Toassure public influence and public participation in decision making process onclimate change issues it is important to foresee public sector rights andopportunities to address compliance institutions.

The ultimate goal of the UNFCCC andany related legal instruments is to achieve in theimplementation of relevant provisions of the Convention stabilization of greenhouse gasconcentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference into the climatesystem. Thus climate should beconsidered as an object of legal environmental protection. Protocols tothe Convention should develop mechanisms of GHG emissions reduction and aim atestablishing transparent monitoring and verifying rules.

For the Kyotoprotocol to be followed adequate ambitions for GHG emission cap that lead toreduction of GHG emissions should be agreed by the countries. Scientificresearchers must be taken into consideration during deciding the issues of GHGemissions cap. It is essential to solve in the future agreement all problematicissues (the contras of the Kyoto protocol) mentioned above, as well as theissues of green technology transfer for the developing countries from thedeveloped states, climate change adaptation for the most vulnerable countriesin climate change aspect, financing of climate change mitigation, etc.

Duringfunctioning of the flexible mechanisms of GHG reduction it is important toestablish the rules of "hard greening" projects financing. Because only "hardgreening" activities lead to factual reduction of GHG emissions when spendingallocations from selling GHG emissions quotas and this should be a priorityduring implementation of the flexible mechanisms of international agreement onclimate change.

Prepared by M. Bulgakova,

Director of the EACLA