October 1, 2012

Part 3: The Good, The Bad and the Kyoto Protocol

Yep! We are now in part 3 of the Peeling Back the COP series! As promised in the preceding post, we will deal with the protocol that embodies the efforts aimed at reducing Green House Gas emissions – the Kyoto Protocol – in this part, and it will span a number of posts. This is where parties (countries) were rewarded with regards to the their Green House Gas emissions (GHGs), and a big tussle ensued; it still exists today!

Birth of Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol came into force in 1995 after the Russian Federation ratified it, and it was adopted at the 3rd Conference of Parties (COP 3) in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was from 2008-2012.

Climate Change Convention vis a vis The Kyoto Protocol

“Oh! Wait a minute, I am getting lost! What is the difference between the Climate Change Convention (CCC) and Kyoto Protocol (KP)?” Well, do not despair; the line between the two is very clear. CCC was aimed at encouraging parties to reduce their GHG emissions, while KP was tailored to legally bind parties towards realizing their emission reduction targets. As easy as that!

Principle underpinning the Kyoto Protocol

The main principle underpinning the Kyoto Protocol is the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” As an example, think of a pizza, but this time a distasteful one. Logically, most people would avoid eating such a pizza, and if they are compelled to do it, then they will try to take the smallest piece possible – human nature!

Now, let us imagine that the distasteful pizza represents the responsibilities for reducing GHG emissions. In essence, we have all contributed to GHG emissions, but we will be given a slice of the distasteful pizza whose size will correspond to the degree of our GHG emissions.

Therefore, we have all contributed to GHG emissions, but then the ones who have polluted most will have to take the biggest responsibilities in reducing their GHG emissions.

Gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol covers six Green House Gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

The Good

Quite a number of countries actually ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and they are considered as the “good guys”.

The Bad

USA, Australia and China, among other countries, are some of the biggest polluters in terms of Green House Gas emissions, yet they have been playing cat and mouse with regards to being legally bound by the Kyoto Protocol.
You can check out the complete list of countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, as well as those which have not, here.


Well, that marks the end of this piece. In the next piece, we will look at the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. See you then!

PS: As usual, if you are interested in contributing to this COP series, please send an email tombevakl@gmail.com and I will be glad to have you on board!

Useful links used in research:




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