Sustainability 54: The Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol has for years been a lightning rod to anyone discussing climate change and Earth’s long-term sustainability for humans.
To green advocates, it represented a best first step forward in mitigating man’s effect on the climate. To climate change doubters, it was — pick your favorite — bad science, misguided policy, economically unsound, a scam, tree-hugger silliness, or all of the preceding. But, what, in truth, is The Kyoto Protocol? And how does it bear on sustainability?
In the late 1990s, the United Nations promulgated The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty aimed at stabilizing the world’s atmospheric levels of six greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons). Those gases have been identified by the world’s scientists as contributors to pollution, declining air quality, acid rain and potentially disastrous climate change. Reduce those greenhouse gases, the logic goes, and you reduce adverse effects on air quality and climate, improving the prospects for our long-term sustainability and survivability on planet Earth.
The Kyoto Protocol was a corollary to the UNFCCC. It set limitations on the allowable increases in emissions of those greenhouse gases by the industrialized nations of the world. The Protocol established a ‘sliding scale’ of limitations, depending on such factors as a particular nation’s existing emissions, its level of industrialization, and its capabilities in emissions control and reduction. Overall, the Protocol sought an average global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 of just over 5% from 1990 levels.
In following years, the Protocol was successively ratified by UN-member nations, eventually taking force in early 2005. The United States was one of the few holdout nations NOT ratifying the Protocol, with the George W. Bush Administration citing various objections. By not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. has severely hobbled the Protocol’s global aims, since Americans are responsible for over 36% of all of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the years since the Protocol was first developed, the U.N. has held additional conferences and undertaken negotiations with member nations, tweaking relatively minor terms and provisions of the treaty.
Progress toward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions has been decidedly mixed. Not only has the U.S. NOT reduced its emissions of 1990, but it also had by 2005 increased its emissions 18%. The world’s other major industrialized nations bound by the Kyoto Protocol more than met their target, by bringing 2005 emissions 14% below 1990 levels. Many of the nations of Eastern Europe, also bound by the Protocol, progressed even farther, bringing their 2005 emission levels to more than 30% below 1990 levels.
- Sustainability 5: Costs
In the quest for a more sustainable future, we consistently run up against the issues of costs: what kind, how much, and who pays them?
- Sustainability 6: Population
Rays of hope One of the prime movers of the world’s sustainability crisis is its population. The more mouths to feed, the more thirsts to quench, the more children to clothe and educate, the more families to house, the more sick and infirm to...
- Sustainability 10: Density
To many, it seems counter-intuitive that packing the globe's inhabitants more tightly might actually be good for the planet's sustainability, but it's a fact.
- Sustainability 11: Priorities
Where does an aspiring designer, planner, architect, developer or contractor begin in trying to build a better world, one project at a time? With proper priorities, that's where.
- Sustainability 12: Mixed-Use Developments (MXDs)
As mixed-use developments proliferate, see how they are helping communities pursue smart integrated diverse growth across the nation.
- Sustainability 49: Rachel Carson
Save our endangered species A woman whom many consider to be a founder of America’s environmental movement, and an advocate for sustainability, Rachel Carson began as a precocious 8-year-old Pennsylvania farm girl, writing stories of animals in...
- Sustainability 48: the environment
We're all in this together The movement toward sustainability is a direct descendant of the social movement of environmentalism. And environmentalism, far from being a new phenomenon, has been with mankind for more than a millennium. The first...
- Sustainability 50: Earth Day
Love this Earth? Little did I know, as I helped assemble display panels on environmental issues on a campus quadrangle in the spring of 1970, that I was taking part in launching a sustainability event that would resonate around the globe ever more...
- Sustainability 62: Rain Gardens
In essence deceptively simple, rain gardens offer yet one more incremental method of achieving greater sustainability and improved water resources.
More by this Author
The Architecture of the Western Reserve is a bit like comedy or pornography — it may be very hard to define, but you'll know it when you see it.
If we are going to truly go green, then we must be aware what population trends tell us about the future.
Optimize land use and parking convenience
No comments yet.