Kyoto Protocol vs Paris Agreement

Various measures have been put in place to combat climate change and preserve our planet. Also, numerous agreements have been drafted and endorsed to avert this global warming phenomenon. Today we look at Kyoto Protocol vs Paris Agreement, as well as their role in controlling climate change.

Kyoto Protocol vs Paris Agreement: Key Differences to Know

Taking care of our environment is no longer a choice. It is something we must do if we want to guarantee a habitable environment for our future generations. That’s why countries around the world are coming together each passing day, to identify ways, and enact laws that can help preserve our planet.

Some of the famous agreements that have been made in an attempt to address the issue of climate change are the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. These two agreements were set up as a result of the rising global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.

They are both fruits of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which was adopted in 1992 during the United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro. The UNFCCC was formed to help establish strategies that would help stabilize the greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

The participant states of the UNFCCC meet regularly at the “Conference of the Parties” (COPs) to determine the next step towards climate protection. 

But what exactly is entailed in these two agreements, and what are their key differences? In this article, we dig deep into the Kyoto protocol vs Paris agreement and see what they are all about. However, we must understand what each of the agreements means before we go any further.

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What is the Kyoto Protocol, and What Does it Entail?

The Kyoto Protocol is a brainchild of the 1997 UNFCCC meeting, which took place in Kyoto, Japan. But due to the complex endorsement process, this document came into effect from February 2005. It currently has 192 signatory parties.

Kyoto Protocol is the first document to be approved by signatory countries, and that has legally binding obligations for greenhouse gas emission, reductions, and limits. The applicability of this document was set for the periods 2008 to 2012, and 2013 to 2020.

Typically, this document operationalizes the UNFCCC by requiring developed countries to reduce and limit greenhouse gas emissions as per the agreed terms. The participant countries are required to assume mitigation policies and measures that will help reduce and limit the GHG emission and report regularly.

This Kyoto Protocol is founded on the provisions and principles of the UNFCCC and works as per the convention’s annex-based structure. Also, the document is only binding to the developed countries, placing on them a heavier burden under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.”

This is because the convention recognizes that these countries are primarily liable for the high levels of greenhouse gases present in our atmosphere.

In its first commitment period (2008 to 2012), the Kyoto Protocol set emission reduction targets that added up to an average of 5% reduction in the emission. This was in comparison to the 1990 levels.

Kyoto Protocol, Doha Amendment

In December 2012, some changes were added to the Kyoto Protocol. These changes, known as the Doha Amendment, were adopted after the conclusion of the first commitment. The amendment was meant to add some new GHG emission reduction goals for the subsequent commitment period (2013 to 2020).

Thirty-seven developed countries, together with the European Community, were part of the initial commitment, which had a 5% GHG reduction target. In the second commitment period, participating countries committed to an 18% GHG reduction in comparison to the 1990 levels.

The Doha amendment includes:

  • New commitments for the countries who take part in the second commitment period
  • A revised GHG list which parties must report on, during the 2013-2020 commitment
  • Changes in the various Kyoto Protocol articles, especially those that pertain to the 2008-2012 commitment, and needed an update.

The endorsement of these changes to the Kyoto Protocol was a valuable move in the intended purpose of maintaining sustainable GHG levels during the second commitment.

What is the Paris Agreement?

Even beyond 2020, which is the end of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, climate change will still need to be addressed. This is why, the UNFCCC’s 21st Conference of the Parties, held in Paris in 2015, adopted the Paris Agreement.

This agreement is a momentous environment accord whose idea was approved by virtually every nation, to handle climate change and its impacts. The agreement intends to reduce global GHG emissions in order to prevent global temperature rises. It aims at limiting the increase in global temperatures to below 2°C beyond the pre-industrial levels.

The Paris Agreement offers a chance for the developing countries to take part in the fight against global warming, hand in hand with the developed countries. The agreement requires all the major GHG emitting countries to reduce their emissions and gradually strengthen their commitments.

World leaders from 195 nations approved the accord, which included commitments from every country. All this aims to combat climate change, and enabling us to adapt to its impacts. Currently, every nation on the planet, (197 in number) is part of the Paris Agreement.

Of the 197 countries, 180 of them have formally joined the Paris Agreement. Only two nations (Iran and Turkey), have not officially joined the agreement as of the end of 2019.

Goals for the Paris Agreement

  • Limit the rise of global temperatures- through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement aims at minimizing the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Provide a more transparent and accountable framework that will help achieve even more ambitious targets.
  • To marshal support in developing countries, for the mitigation of climate change, and adaptation to its negative effects.

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Effects of global warming

Kyoto Protocol vs the Paris Agreement

Although both were set to help in combating climate change, there is a considerable difference between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement. Some of the key differences between the two documents include:

  • Signatories

The Kyoto Protocol was intended for developed countries only and involved legally binding targets for GHC emissions reduction. The whole burden was put on the developed countries, which made it lack ratification from various countries like the US.

Paris Agreement, on the other hand, was drafted with every nation on the planet in mind. It requires every nation (whether developed or developing), to take part in saving our environment. Each country ought to play its part. This made 195 countries to endorse the document right from the beginning.

  • Goals and Targets

The Kyoto Protocol had established targets for the signatory countries to adhere to, and they came with penalties for noncompliance.

In comparison, countries in the Paris Agreement have the liberty to set up their NDCs (Nationally determined contributions). Also, it’s a non-binding document where signatories don’t incur any penalties if they fail to hit their targets.

The Paris Agreement, however, requires monitoring and reporting, as well as a reassessment of a country’s emission reduction targets over time. This helps to attain the document’s broader, long-term goals.

  • Requirements

Kyoto Protocol set the targets to be achieved, although it didn’t specify a timeline for achieving them.

Paris Agreement, on the other hand, requires each nation to declare its next set of targets, after every five years.

  • Nature of the Document

Kyoto Protocol was legally binding to the participating nations and had fewer countries as signatories.

But, the Paris Agreement is a flexible, non-binding agreement that is globally adopted. Almost every nation is a part of the climate accord.

And, with every nation having the liberty to set their goals, the Paris Agreement ensures that even the developing countries can be included. It also makes it easier as the world is now handling the climate change issue through collective efforts from everyone.

The Paris Agreement allows everyone to contribute to finding opportunities to slash global warming contributors and promote green living. This can be done through individual efforts, as well as local and national efforts.

Less greenhouse gas emissions mean a safer and cleaner environment for us and our future generations. As we don’t have an alternative planet to run to, everyone must take the initiative to preserve what we have.

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Withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement

President Trump announced the exit of the US from the Paris Agreement during his first year in office. But, the US is still not yet out of this agreement. This is because a country can only start the withdrawal process if the agreement has been in force for at least three years.

In the case of the US, the three years ended on 4th November 2019. Also, the withdrawal notice takes another full year to become official. This means that the US will formally be out of the agreement in 2020, one day after the presidential election.

However, even with the US out of the Paris Agreement, the accord can still go on and succeed. While the withdrawal of the US and Canada from the Kyoto Protocol brought the treaty to an end, experts say that it might be different for the Paris Agreement. They attribute this to the differences present between the two treaties, as well as the increasing concern for the dangers posed by climate change.

As Chris Field put it, the Paris treaty was made to correct the flaws that were present in the Kyoto Protocol. Since the Paris accord is purely voluntary and presents fairness, the exit of the US may not make the accord to crumble.

Cost implications were the major reason why Trump wanted out of the Paris climate accord. The president argued that the US economy would incur around 3 trillion dollars by 2040. He also claimed that the accord would bring a loss of 2.7 million jobs by 2025.

These he claims would make the US less competitive against its rivals, China and India. But, experts say that all these statistics were exaggerated. They point out that the effects of global warming are far expensive than controlling carbon emissions.

Conclusion on Kyoto Protocol vs Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement’s ultimate goal is to cap the rise of global temperature at 1.5°C in the 21st century. However, based on the commitments made by individual nations, studies show that these targets won’t be enough to accomplish the 1.5°C CAP. In fact, the cumulative targets will only achieve to cap the rise in global temperatures, somewhere between 2.7°C and 3.7°C.

But, with the collective effort and continued awareness, the goal can someday be achieved. And, even the 1.5°C shouldn’t be a static one. It should represent only the floor but not the ceiling. This way, we can do even better in the future.

I hope that as we continue to preserve our environment, this Kyoto Protocol vs Paris Agreement article offers you everything you needed to know about the two documents. 

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