Climate Change: End of Kyoto?

December 2, 2011

This week signaled the start of the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa.  Delegates are gathered from around the globe to negotiate various climate change issues, including the looming expiration of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  A summary and the full text of the protocol can be found at 1998 WL 119702.

Under the original agreement, Annex I parties, or “developed” countries, made a commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions between the years 2008 and 2012.  Signatories identified as “developing” nations, such as China, Indonesia, India and Mexico, were exempt from the protocol’s binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but had the opportunity to voluntarily reduce emissions in exchange for credits that could be sold to other countries to off-set their non-compliance.  The goal was to reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by the end of 2012.

According to then President Clinton, the United States has never ratified the protocol, because “the United States will not assume binding obligations unless key developing nations meaningfully participate in this effort.” 143 Cong. Rec. S11019-02, 1997 WL 660180 .  You can find Presidential statements like this by searching materials like the Congressional Record (CR), Presidential documents (PRES) or the Executive Orders on Westlaw or WestlawNext. Also check out Daily Presidential Documents (PRES-DAILY) – for documents released by the White House Office of Communications.

Original Annex I parties such as Canada, Japan, and Russia have already announced their unwillingness to sign-on for a second commitment period.  So what does that mean for the future of Kyoto if the world’s highest producers of greenhouse gases are not subject to the treaty?

Some would argue that it makes a second commitment period largely meaningless.  Others would say that countries that have been doing their part, signatories and non-signatories alike, will carry on without a second commitment.  The EU is strongly encouraging a second commitment, but wants stronger reductions and mandatory participation across the board.

Other References:

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Suggested Search: “kyoto protocol” & renew! exten! second /5 commitment

Also, UK news outlets like The Guardian provide frequent updates on Conference developments.

On WestlawNext, run the following plain language search in News:

second commitment period for +”kyoto protocol” and sort by date. Note that the plus symbol ensures the phrase “kyoto protocol” will be included in your results.

You can also follow all of the action on the UNFCC’s website.