All 36 countries that committed to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change complied with their emission targets, according to a scientific study released today. In addition, the Kyoto process and climate-related policies, represented a low cost for the countries involved — up to 0.1% of GDP for the European Union and an even lower fraction of Japan’s GDP. This is around one quarter to one tenth of what experts had estimated after the agreement was reached in 1997, for delivering the targets set 15 years ahead. The US never ratified the Treaty and Canada withdrew, but all the rest continued and Kyoto came into force in 2005.

The results, reported in the Climate Policy journal, are the first published results to use the final data for national GHG emissions and exchanges in carbon units which only became available at the end of 2015. They show that overall, the countries who signed up to the Kyoto Protocol surpassed their commitment by 2.4 GtCO2e yr -1 (giga-tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year).

“There is often skepticism about the importance of international law, and many critics claim that the Kyoto Protocol failed. The fact that countries have fully complied is highly significant, and it helps to raise expectations for full adherence to the Paris Agreement,” said Prof. Michael Grubb, Editor-in-Chief of the Climate Policy journal and co-founder of research network Climate Strategies.

The researchers found that most of these countries reduced their GHG emissions to the levels required by the Kyoto Protocol, with only nine (Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland) emitting higher levels. The nine countries only just overshot their targets — in total by around 1% of the average annual emissions capped under Kyoto — and were able to comply with the Protocol using the “flexibility” mechanisms. The researchers also found that overall compliance would have also been achieved even without the so-called ‘hot-air,’ (windfall emission reductions from Eastern Bloc countries).


Source:  Taylor & Francis

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Journal: Climate Policy

Research Reference:

  1. Igor Shishlov, Romain Morel, Valentin Bellassen. Compliance of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in the first commitment period. Climate Policy, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2016.1164658