Environment and Statecraft: The Strategy of Environmental Treaty-Making

By Scott Barrett | Go to book overview

Afterword to the Paperback Edition on Global Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

A lot has happened since I finished writing this book in late 2002. Unfortunately, little has changed.

The main news event was Russia's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which brought this agreement into force. Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, called this “a huge success for the international fight against climate change.” However, history may judge the moment differently. Entry into force may only expose Kyoto's fundamental weaknesses.

This brings me back to the three fates I predicted for this agreement: that it would not enter into force; or that it would enter into force but not be fully implemented; or that it would enter into force and be implemented but only because it fails to reduce global emissions appreciably. Obviously, the first fate has been avoided. The latter two remain possible.

The emissions of the 15 members of the European Union—the countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol as a block—were 1.7 percent below the 1990 level in 2003, the latest year for which data are available. 1 Kyoto requires that they be eight percent below the 1990 level by 2008-2012. To meet their collective Kyoto target, the EU-15 will thus need to reduce their emissions by an additional 6.3 percent. Since 1999, however, emissions of the EU-15 have increased in three out of four years; in 2003 they increased 1.3 percent above the 2002 level. If this is a trend, it is heading in the wrong direction.

Individual country data for Europe are more revealing. Only four of the EU-15 countries are within their Kyoto targets, as agreed in the EU burden sharing agreement: France, Greece, Sweden, and the UK. Three of these four have a current surplus of less than two percent, and the emissions of each of these four countries increased between 2002 and 2003. Many EU countries are very far from meeting their targets. Denmark is supposed to reduce its emissions by 21 percent from the 1990 level by 2008-2012, but its emissions are now 6.3 percent above the 1990 level: a gap of 27.3 percent. The gap for Austria is 26.6 percent. Spain is now 25.6 percent short of its target.

Japan's emissions were almost 13 percent above the 1990 level in 2003, about eight percent above the revised base year figure (Ministry of the Environment, Japan 2005). Kyoto requires that Japan's emissions be cut six percent from this level: a gap of 14 percent. New Zealand's emissions were almost 23 percent higher in 2003 than they were in 1990, whereas Kyoto requires that they be stabilized at the 1990 level by 2008-2012. 2 Canada's situation is worse. According to a recent government report (Government of Canada, 2005 : 42), Canada's emissions in 2010 will be about 45 percent

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