Kyoto Protocol Crash Test: Passed

This past February marked the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first emission reduction treaty. Experts differ in their evaluations of the document’s performance. However, environmental NGOs say that this first ever climate agreement proved to be a good tool that allowed to test if countries are fit to respond to the climate challenge.

During the time of the Kyoto’s first commitment period that lasted from 2008 to 2012, the Parties were planning to reach a 5% GHG emissions reduction, compared to the 1990 level. Globally, the goal has been achieved. Although many scientists say that a relatively small reduction of this type will hardly have any feasible effect on the planetary scale.

Some experts claim that the Kyoto Protocol outlived its usefulness, since it was drafted while having in mind the specific situation of the mid-90’s, when emissions growth was exclusively defined by the developed countries.

Now that the situation has changed, and China and India along with other developing countries dictate the global emissions growth, emissions of the developed countries tend to slowly decrease. The disagreement on the legitimacy of dividing the countries into two lists, those of donors and recipients, which is not quite relevant in the current economic situation, is nowadays one of the main obstacles at the climate negotiations, and no consensus has been reached on it so far.

Russia is a major GHG emitter and its participation in the Kyoto Protocol played an important part in the process, as a counterweight to the position of the US, which, in turn, withdrew from the ratification of the climate document. Members of the official Russian delegation at international climate negotiations have repeatedly emphasized the important role of the Kyoto Protocol. However, Russia did not join the second commitment period of Kyoto (2013-2020) while claiming that it would not abstain for real actions to reduce GHG emissions.

Russia’s participation in the Kyoto Protocol helped the country to try out JI (joint implementation projects), a brand new economic climate tool. Our energy sector, as well as the housing and utilities infrastructure and forestry, could have benefited greatly from the continuation of the Kyoto and the JI. Nevertheless, Russia’s refusal to further participate in the KP did not allow our businesses to get going in this area.

‘The Kyoto Protocol was a remarkable achievement in many ways. It not only underscored the scientific reality that greenhouse gas emissions need to fall. But it also put in place pioneering concepts, flexible options, practical solutions and procedures for accountability that we often take for granted today’, says Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation in the area of climate change. ‘The Kyoto Protocol was the first critical step—today we must take further and more far reaching action towards a truly sustainable future for seven billion, rising to over nine billion, people.’

‘The Kyoto Protocol holds great significance for the international community. It helped create a precedent when the governments made their first steps towards using economic tools to solve a global environmental issue, says Olga Senova, Head of the Climate Secretariat, Russian Socio-Ecological Union. The Kyoto Protocol is a sort of a test for countries to see if they are ready for real action to protect the climate. Russia’s participation in this whole processes, as well as in the preparation of the new climate agreement in Paris, is very important in terms of both reaching global goals and serving our own domestic goals to modernize and attract investments into green development. Russia must get involved in the process of reaching ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions, support local initiatives and be in the forefront of the climate change struggle.’