There was a special issue in Nature last year that looked into the successes and failures of the Kyoto climate treaty. It’s an interesting series of articles and entirely relevant to education for ecological literacy (and towards ecological citizenship)… I took these notes for that purpose:
“After 8 days of fractious negotiating, delegates at the 1997 climate conference in Kyoto, Japan, were running out of time to deliver a treaty aimed at slowing global warming. The leader of the talks, Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta, took the unusual step of invoking Zen Buddhism, telling everyone that they must break through mental barriers to achieve enlightenment. Two days later, after a marathon all-night session, the negotiators finally hammered out the climate agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol. It was the first – and so far, only – pact to commit rich countries to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
But even before the ink was dry on the agreement, it was clear that the protocol faced a rocky future. Although the United States had signed the treaty, President Bill Clinton signalled that the world’s largest economy would not ratify the pact unless China and other developing nations agreed to limit their emissions, something that they had objected to doing before the developed world acted. By the time the Kyoto protocol came into force in February 2005, the United States had pulled out. The remaining signatories – 37 developed nations and economies in transition – pledged to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels by an average of 4.2% in the period from 2008 to 2012.
As that window closes, the countries that stuck with the treaty can claim some success. Overall, they met their target with room to spare, cutting their collective emissions by around 16%. But most of those cuts came with little or no effort, because of the collapse of greenhouse-gas producing industries in eastern Europe and, more recently, the global economic crisis.” (p.656)
“‘Kyoto had a very limited impact on climate,’ says Atte Korhola, an environmental-policy researcher at the University of Helsinki. ‘It was too narrow in ambition, its tools were too massively bureaucratic and it offered too many loopholes.’ / But the treaty has taught policy-makers some valuable lessons [-p.657] and possibly laid the groundwork for more ambitious efforts. ‘Kyoto was a grand policy experiment with important lessons we ought to take forward. It had its flaws – no wonder, you rarely get policies right the first time – but the overall architecture is still useful,’ says Roger Pielke Jr, who studies energy and innovation policy at the University of Colorado Boulder.” (pp.656-657)
“Kyoto covered four main greenhouse gases – CO2, methand, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride – and two further groups of gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. But it did not include another warming force: black soot particles from the incomplete combustion of wood and fossil fuels.” (p.657)
“Despite its shortcomings, Kyoto has not been an utter failure, says Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Rather than judging the agreement on the emissions reductions it has achieved, he says, people should consider whether it has put the world on the right path.” (p.657)
“Many other policy experts agree that the next climate treaty must take a more pragmatic approach than the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, which failed to win over the biggest polluters in part because it relied on a mix of ethical and environmental rationales rather than economic ones.” (p.658
Ref: Quirin Schiermeier (2012) Hot Air. Nature 491, 29th November, pp.656-658