Kyoto Protocol Agreement
On February 16 2005 the Kyoto Protocol - already one of the most controversial treaties in history, becomes law making it the first legally binding international treaty on the environment. 35 countries have signed up to the protocol, most of them European.
The agreement binds all signatories to maximum individual greenhouse gas emission based against a baseline of 1990 emissions. Each country undertakes to reduce its emissions by a percentage below this base level.
The accepted differentials in reduction figures between countries is based on the following principles;
- The developed world should accept at least initially the largest burden because they have contributed most to the existing emissions.
- Countries considered to still be developing, notably Portugal and Spain were given concessionary increases in emission levels!
Six greenhouse gases are included in the agreement although CO2 is by far the most important contributor. The Kyoto Agreement is an important start even though the emission reductions are a small fraction of reductions needed to stabilise climate.
4 countries of the original member countries notably the US, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases (36% of emissions from industrialised nations), Australia (2.1%), Liechtenstein (0.001%) and Monaco (0.001%) all refused to ratify the treaty.
The UK has signed up to reducing emissions by 12.5% below 1990 levels. This it was already confident of meeting with a move away from coal to gas-fired power stations (producing 1/3 of the emissions) already underway! Whilst the Government has failed in its pledge to reduce road traffic it has succeeded in opened up the renewable energy market by forcing electricity generators to buy "green power" (despite it being slightly more expensive) thereby making it available to he consumer.