It is widely accepted that greenhouse gases are causes of global warming and other climate change effects.
The Kyoto protocol is a treaty under the UNFCC that aims to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions of industrialised nations by at least 5 percent of the 1990 levels in the commitment period of 2008-2012. It moreover recognises that while the industrialised countries have gained the most out of environmental exploitation (and hence conributing to global warming) in terms of economic profits; the negative effects of such activities are expected to be experienced all over the world, especially the least developed nations.
The protocol sets binding targets that countries have to achieve in their emission levels. The protocol even envisages a global emission trading sysem which will incentivise countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emission levels. The treaty also enables developing countries to collaborate with developed nations to install environment friendly technology in their countries. It is in effect a truly global effort to adress a problem that is truly global.
Yet it is appalling that the worlds biggest emitter (USA) and the worlds biggest emitter per capita (Australia) have not ratified it in their home legislatures despite being signatories to the treaty.
This is inspite of the large grassroots level support for the treaty in the US. Even more distressing is the US administrations unwillingness to engage in any kind of negotiations on the issue.
The US has gone on record stating that the treaty will only serve to stunt the growth of developed countries while providing impetus to the economies of developing nations such as China and India. The US government has taken the stance that economic growth and technological innovations will automatically reduce emissions.
Will this view hold water in the light of findings pointing towards rapid climate change and the inabiliy of governmens to act prudently? Moreover climate change is expected to occur rapidly and increasingly in the form of natural calamities. An evidence of this is the fact that insurance companies consider climate change and claims arising from them as their biggest concern.
The US is one country wherein development has not led to an increase in environmental awareness among the general populace; at least to the extent as in Europe (Environmenal Kuznets effect). The drive for change needs to come from the ground up. Consumers must demand it so that companies start acting. This will in turn put pressure on governments to comply and adopt pro environment policies.
The US government needs to reanalyse its short termist stature of playing to the energy lobbies and take concerted action to sustain the ‘American’ way of life for future generations.
* Reactions to US Kyoto pullback
* A good discussion on the current status of the protocol citing arguments for and against it can be found on wikipedia
* The counries and their targets can be seen here.