Non ratification of Kyoto by the world’s biggest polluter

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.

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7 comments on “Non ratification of Kyoto by the world’s biggest polluter
  1. Hama says:

    In the case of Japan, we agree to cut down 6% of total greenhouse gas in the commitment period. However, our total emission have continuously increased about 6% since 1997. As a result, Japan have to reduce at least 12% of total green house gas emission by the period of 2008-2012. I believe it is not only Japanese actual situation but also other countrie’s too. Thus, the involvement of all stakeholders will be necessary for countries which have ractified this treaty to achieve the target.

  2. lixia says:

    In market economy, everyting can be traded by buyers and salers.someone take thought for externality about market, which ignores the pubic goods and environmental protection. And these, who have the responsibility for the plante, try their best to find a effective way to deal with the powerlessness of the market economy.Maybe global emission trading system could offer one solution of reducing greenhouse gas emission levles. Also, it can decline the technological gap between developed countries and developing countries.

  3. fumiaki says:

    Concerning Japan, Japan has responsibility to reduce 6% of the level of 1990 by 2008-2012. I hear before ratification it was some arguments in Japan that 6% reduction was not fair because Japan had made serious efforts in reduction of energy consumption, and Co2 emission per GDP was around one-third of US.
    But Japan have to. Efforts are not only cost for business but will bring profits in the medium-long run(acutually it has already brought in some businesies).
    I hope US will ratify the Kyoto protocol also.

  4. HAMA says:

    In the case of Japan, we agree to cut down 6% of total green gas emission as the challenging target by the committed period. Ministry of the environment set up “team minus six” which 4216 corporate body participate to achieve target. However, total greenhouse gas emissions have continuously increased about 6% since 1997. As a result, Japan needs to reduce total green gas at least 12% by the period 2008-2012. I believe it is not only for Japanese actual situation but also other countries too. Thus, in accordance with the action of the U.S. and Australian government toward sustainable development, the involvement of all stakeholders will be necessary for countries which have ratified treaty to achieve the target for our future generations.

  5. jeremy says:

    I concur with all the comments above. As a holder of an Australian passport, I, like many of my fellow Australians, find it embarrassing that the Australian government is so intransigent on Kyoto.

  6. Daniel says:

    The fact that the greatest polluters have not ratified the Protocol is a reason for great concerns and it is very popular to be highlited. But it is not so common to emphasise that the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions of industrialised nations by ONLY 5 percent. But that would be nothing even if each country complied with the regulations of the Protocol. Based on scientific researches, this amount of reduction should be multiplied many times to reach the objectives why the Kyoto Protocol has been created. If this relatively minimal reduction can not be realised how can we hope to be able to maintain the life conditions on our planet for the future generations. And even I have not mentioned the existence of emission trade that leads to the decrease of the Protocol’s significance.
    My view can be a bit too pessimistic but I do not think that the solution for this problem will be found in the near future.

  7. Sebastian says:

    One of the problems I would consider to be responsible for the lack of cooperation of the United States is their arrogance. First of all, I have to state and make sure that I personally really do not have anything against this country. But it can be claimed that the U.S. only agrees to whatever they benefit from. This can easily be revealed concerning the Kyoto Protocol discussed by Prem. To be honest, it was no big surprise to me when I read in the newspaper that they didn’t want to sign it. As I have examined in my blog, the American Dream is all about growth achieving wealth and sustainable development through continuous growth. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is very powerful, nationally and internationally. That is why they can pretty much do whatever they want. Even though they know about the environmental problems, they just don’t want to bother with that problem. They simply want to continue the way they have always been working. A change in their economy to ensure a more efficient use of energy for example would mean additonal costs for the government and therefore this is not an option for the U.S. since costs surmount benefits concerning short-term growth. Thank God there are other industrialised nations who did recognize the importance of the environmental issues.

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