What is the Future of the Kyoto Protocol?

Written by Duncan Marsh on . Posted in Learn, The Wonk Room

Much of the debate coming into Cancún has been on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated back in 1997 and features emissions-reduction commitments from developed countries.

It also provided the framework for a carbon market intended to reduce emissions efficiently. And many people are under the impression that Kyoto ends in 2012, which is actually not correct. The “first commitment period” for Kyoto goes from 2008 to 2012.

So currently, all the developed countries of the world, with the exception of the United States, are operating under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their emissions. Most of these countries are on track to do so. The U.S. chose not to be party to the Kyoto Protocol back in 2001, and it’s been operating independently.

Then what happens after 2012? Will these developing countries take part in a second commitment period? This has become complicated because major developing countries like China, Indonesia, and Brazil have become, since 1997, some of the world’s largest emitters.

So countries like Japan and Russia are saying that, unless they see strong action by the United States and by these major developing countries, they have no incentive and they are unwilling to sign onto a second commitment period, be it Kyoto or something else.

Europe and perhaps Australia have indicated a little more flexibility, but this will be a major feature in these negotiations in Cancún. And it obviously relates to the responsibilities that all countries will take on in the next round of constructing an international framework for climate change.

These negotiations around Kyoto may not conclude until next year in South Africa, but it will be a central part of the rest of these talks here in Cancún.

Duncan Marsh is director of international climate policy for The Nature Conservancy

Video by: Paul Mackie/The Nature Conservancy

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