Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 with the detailed rules for its implementation being established by the “Marrakesh Accords” in Morocco, in 2001, The Protocol was ratified and entered into force on 16 February 2005 with its first commitment period to start in 2008 and ended in 2012.  In Doha, Qatar, on 8 December 2012, the “Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol” was adopted and it includes:

New commitments for Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol who agreed to take on commitments in a second commitment period from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020;

A revised list of greenhouse gases (GHG) to be reported on by Parties in the second commitment period; and

Amendments to several articles of the Kyoto Protocol which specifically referenced issues pertaining to the first commitment period and which needed to be updated for the second commitment period.

As Scott Carty tells Gordon Green in Blue Eye, the importance of the Kyoto Protocol cannot be overstated. The story is set in 2005 just after the Protocol’s ratification and politicians and environmentalists alike see it as a catalyst for genuine CO2 reductions. The trading world, though, understands it means something far less utopian and a gold rush ensues as financial institutions and privately managed wealth-funds stumble over each other to secure the developing World’s emissions credits. African landfill sites, Chinese coal-mine methane and Indian fluorocarbon plants are just a few of the low-hanging fruit projects in a fledgling market which had not yet been tested.

Carty has positioned himself and his employer, Albion Gas Light and Power plc, one step ahead of the game providing the market with forward price security though his carbon derivative products. His exuberance and greed have him believing they will reverse climate change and save the world but Gordon Green brings him down to earth with his statements;

You really believe that the world can trade its way out of the environmental issues that it’s facing?”

“It’s better than not doing anything at all.”

“On the contrary, it seems to me that carbon offsetting is just a modern form of absolution: Purchasing someone else’s right to commit the sin of polluting, just more cheaply.”

“That’s very short-sighted and simply not true.”

“Ah, well I guess I’m just not intelligent enough to understand how the emissions from raging forest fires or the methane leaking from thawing Siberian permafrost – such huge natural processes – can be alleviated by carbon trading?”

“He’s got a point, Carty silently affirmed.”

“Scott,’ he uttered quietly, ‘the world’s feminine soul – the anima mundi as the alchemists revered her – the maiden of your dream, depends on our responsible behaviour in order for us all to survive.”

Much later, after Carty’s ordeal, Green acknowledges that was rash in his dismissal of the Protocol in his conversations with Carty.

“The world works in strange ways and the Kyoto Protocol’s financial mechanisms, fragile as they may be, are important achievements. Without them, there wouldn’t have been any unified action taken at all, to stem climate change.”

This is the point I make when speaking about the Kyoto Protocol and discussing the meaningful changes in paradigm, it has achieved – without the nations of the world coming together to recognise the impact that anthropogenic GHGs have had, and continue to have, on the climate, there would have been very little done to bring these issues to the publics’ attention and to enforce a cap, on rich countries’ emissions levels.  While the price of a tonne of Carbon Dioxide on the European Trading Scheme may have fallen through the floor in recent years and the issue of emissions may have lost it newsworthy shine, the infrastructure and law are now enshrined and constructive efforts to mitigate climate change still go on in the background.  Gordon Green recognises that a new level of consciousness or novelty has been achieved and despite his frustration at how slow it’s moving, his lesson is that it’s still a positive step and he should not deride it.