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Kyoto Treaty

Objectives | Status of Agreement | Details of Agreement | Emission Trading | Revisions
Government Positions |
Differentiated Responsibility
| Support for Kyoto
Opposition to Kyoto | Cost-Benefit Analysis | Glossary 

Current Positions of Governments

Position of Russia

Vladimir Putin approved the treaty on November 4, 2004 and Russia officially notified the United Nations of its ratification on November 18, 2004. With that, the Russian ratification is complete. The issue of Russian ratification was particularly closely watched in the international community, as the accord was brought into force 90 days after Russian ratification (February 19, 2005).

President Putin had earlier decided in favor of the protocol in September 2004, along with the Russian cabinet, against the opinion of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of the Ministry for Industry and Energy and of the then president's economic advisor, Andrey Illarionov, and in exchange to EU's support for the Russia's admission in the WTO. As anticipated after this, ratification by the lower (22 October 2004) and upper house of parliament did not encounter any obstacles.

The Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to a percentage increase or decrease from their 1990 levels. Since 1990 the economies of most countries in the former Soviet Union have collapsed, as have their greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, Russia should have no problem meeting its commitments under Kyoto, as its current emission levels are substantially below its targets

It is debatable whether Russia will benefit from selling emissions credits to other countries in the Kyoto Protocol.

Position of the European Union

On May 31, 2002, all fifteen then-members of the European Union deposited the relevant ratification paperwork at the UN. The EU produces around 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has agreed to a cut, on average, by 8% from 1990 emission levels. The EU has consistently been one of the major supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, negotiating hard to get wavering countries on board.

In December, 2002, the EU created a system of emissions trading in an effort to meet these tough targets. Quotas were introduced in six key industries: energy, steel, cement, glass, brick making, and paper/cardboard. There are also fines for member nations that fail to meet their obligations, starting at €40/ton of carbon dioxide in 2005, and rising to €100/ton in 2008. Current EU projections suggest that by 2008 the EU will be at 4.7% below 1990 levels.

The position of the EU is not without controversy in Protocol negotiations, however. One criticism is that, rather than reducing 8%, the EU should cut 15% as they said they would during the negotiation. Also, emission levels of former Warsaw Pact countries who now are members of the EU have already been reduced as a result of their economic restructuring. This may mean that the region's 1990 baseline level is inflated compared to that of other developed countries, thus giving European economies a potential competitive advantage over the U.S.

Both the EU (as the European Community) and its member states are signatories to the Kyoto treaty.

Position of Germany

On June 28, 2006, the German government announced it would exempt its coal industry from requirements under the Kyoto agreement. Claudia Kemfert, an energy professor at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin said, "For all its support for a clean environment and the Kyoto Protocol, the cabinet decision is very disappointing. The energy lobbies have played a big role in this decision."

Position of the United Kingdom

The energy policy of the United Kingdom fully endorses goals for carbon dioxide emissions reduction and has committed to proportionate reduction in national emissions on a phased basis. The United Kingdom is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

To date (September 2006), there is no legislative framework in place within the UK to guarantee year-on-year reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases. However, 380 out of 659 Members of Parliament have signed Early Day Motion 178 expressing their support for the introduction of a Climate Change Bill that will address this issue, making a proposed 3% annual cut in carbon dioxide emissions legally binding. There is also a strong lobby from environmental organizations, such as Friends of the Earth's Big Ask Climate Campaign to get the Climate Change Bill included in the Parliamentary agenda for 2006-7.

Position of the United States

The United States (U.S.), although a signatory to the protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the protocol. The signature alone is mostly symbolic, as the protocol is non-binding over the United States unless ratified.

On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations. The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification.

The Clinton Administration released an economic analysis in July 1998, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisors, which concluded that with emissions trading among the Annex B/Annex I countries, and participation of key developing countries in the "Clean Development Mechanism" - which grants the latter business-as-usual emissions rates through 2012 - the costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol could be reduced as much as 60% from many estimates. Other economic analyses, however, prepared by the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Energy Energy Information Administration (EIA), and others, demonstrated a potentially large decline in GDP from implementing the Protocol.

The current President, George W. Bush, has indicated that he does not intend to submit the treaty for ratification, not because he does not support the Kyoto principles, but because of the exemption granted to China (the world's second greatest emitter of carbons) and also the strain he believes the treaty would put on the economy; he emphasizes the uncertainties which he asserts are present in the climate change issue. Furthermore, the U.S. is concerned with broader exemptions of the treaty. For example, the U.S. does not support the split between Annex I countries and others. Bush said of the treaty:

“This is a challenge that requires a 100% effort; ours, and the rest of the world's. The world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China. Yet, China was entirely exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. India and Germany are among the top emitters. Yet, India was also exempt from Kyoto … America's unwillingness to embrace a flawed treaty should not be read by our friends and allies as any abdication of responsibility. To the contrary, my administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change … Our approach must be consistent with the long-term goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”

Despite its refusal to submit the protocol to Congress for ratification, the Bush Administration has taken some actions towards mitigation of climate change. In June 2002, the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the "Climate Action Report 2002". Some observers have interpreted this report as being supportive of the protocol, although the report itself does not explicitly endorse the protocol.  At the G-8 meeting in June 2005 administration officials expressed a desire for "practical commitments industrialized countries can meet without damaging their economies". According to those same officials, the United States is on track to fulfill its pledge to reduce its carbon intensity 18% by 2012. The United States has signed the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, a pact that allows those countries to set their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions individually, but with no enforcement mechanism. Supporters of the pact see it as complementing the Kyoto Protocol while being more flexible, but critics have said the pact will be ineffective without any enforcement measures.

The Administration's position is not uniformly accepted in the U.S. For example, Paul Krugman notes that the target 18% reduction in carbon intensity is still actually an increase in overall emissions.  The White House has also come under criticism for downplaying reports that link human activity and greenhouse gas emissions to climate change and that a White House official and former oil industry advocate, Philip Cooney, watered down descriptions of climate research that had already been approved by government scientists, charges the White House denies. BBC (2005) Critics point to the administration's close ties to the oil and gas industries. In June 2005, State Department papers showed the administration thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, including the U.S. stance on Kyoto. Input from the business lobby group Global Climate Coalition was also a factor.

Furthermore, supporters of Kyoto have undertaken some actions outside the auspices of the Bush Administration. In 2002, Congressional researchers who examined the legal status of the Protocol advised that signature of the UNFCCC imposes an obligation to refrain from undermining the Protocol's object and purpose, and that while the President probably cannot implement the Protocol alone, Congress can create compatible laws on its own initiative. Nine north-eastern states and 194 mayors from US towns and cities, have pledged to adopt Kyoto-style legal limits on greenhouse gas emissions. On August 31 2006, the California Legislature reached an agreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce the state's greenhouse-gas emissions, which rank at 12th-largest in the world, by 25 percent by the year 2020. This agreement effectively puts California in line with the Kyoto initiative.

Position of Canada

On December 17, 2002, Canada ratified the treaty. While numerous polls have shown support for the Kyoto protocol at around 70%, there is still some opposition, particularly by some business groups, non-governmental climate scientists and energy concerns, using arguments similar to those being used in the US. There is also a fear that since US companies will not be affected by the Kyoto Protocol that Canadian companies will be at a disadvantage in terms of trade. In 2005, the result was limited to an ongoing "war of words", primarily between the government of Alberta (Canada's primary oil and gas producer) and the federal government. There were even fears that Kyoto could threaten national unity, specifically with regard to Alberta.

After January 2006, the Liberal government was replaced by a Conservative minority government under Stephen Harper, who previously has expressed opposition to Kyoto. During the election campaign, Harper stated he wanted to move beyond the Kyoto debate by establishing different environmental controls. Rona Ambrose, who considers the emission trading concept to be flawed, replaced Stéphane Dion as the environment minister.

On April 25, 2006, Ambrose announced that Canada would have no chance of meeting its targets under Kyoto, and would look to participate in U.S. sponsored Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. "We've been looking at the Asia-Pacific Partnership for a number of months now because the key principles around [it] are very much in line with where our government wants to go," Ambrose told reporters. On May 2, 2006, it was reported that environmental funding designed to meet the Kyoto standards has been cut, while the Harper government develops a new plan to take its place.

A private member's bill, Bill C-288, has been put forth by Pablo Rodriguez, Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Honoré-Mercier. The bill aims to force the minority government of Stephen Harper to "ensure that Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol." With the support of the Liberals, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois, and with the current minority situation, this bill has a fair chance of being passed - despite the fact that private member's bills rarely succeed in becoming law. If passed, the bill would force Harper's government to form a Climate Change Plan within 6 months of the bill receiving royal assent.

Position of Australia

Despite the fact that Australia was at the time of the negotiation already one of the biggest emitters on per capita basis, the country was granted a target of 8% increase. This is because Australia used its relative smallness as a negotiation tool while other big players were negotiating. The result of the negotiation was reported in the Australian media as being to Australia's advantage.

Nonetheless, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has refused to sign the Agreement and has argued that the protocol would cost Australians jobs, and that Australia is already doing enough to cut emissions. This is despite the fact that the Australian government is keen to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions and has pledged $300 million over the next three years. The Federal Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, is in full support of the protocol and it is currently a heavily debated issue within the political establishment. The opposition claims signing the protocol is a "risk free" prospect as they claim Australia would already be meeting the obligations the protocol would impose. This claim relies heavily on changes to land clearing policies that can only occur once, while ongoing emission sources have all increased substantially. As of 2005, Australia was the world's largest emitter per capita of greenhouse gases.

The Australian government, along with the United States, agreed to sign the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate at the ASEAN regional forum on 28 July 2005. Furthermore, the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) commenced The NSW Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme (GGAS). This mandatory greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme commenced on 1 January 2003 and is currently being trialed by the state government in NSW alone. Uniquely this scheme allows Accredited Certificate Providers (ACP) to trade emissions from householders in the state. As of 2006 the scheme is still in place despite Prime Minister John Howard's clear dismissal of emissions trading as a credible solution to climate change. Following the example of NSW, the National Emissions Trading Scheme (NETS) has been established as an initiative of State and Territory Governments of Australia, all of which have Labor Party governments. The focus of NETS is to bring into existence an intra-Australian carbon trading scheme and to coordinate policy developments to this end. According to the Constitution of Australia, environmental matters are under the jurisdiction of the States, and the NETS is intended to facilitate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the Labor Party when they return to power on the Federal level.

Position of China

China insists that the emissions level of any given country is a multiplication of its per capita emission and its population. Because China has emplaced population control measures while maintaining low emissions per capita, it should therefore in both the above aspects be considered a contributor to the world environment. China considers the criticism of its energy policy unjust.

Position of India

India signed and ratified the Protocol in August, 2002. Since India is exempted from the framework of the treaty, it is expected to gain from the protocol in terms of transfer of technology and related foreign investments. At the G-8 meeting in June 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out that the per-capita emission rates of the developing countries are a tiny fraction of those in the developed world. Following the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, India maintains that the major responsibility of curbing emission rests with the developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time.

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