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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kyoto protocol – An initiative taken by various nations to limit emission of greenhouse gases:


Kyoto protocol – An initiative taken by various nations to limit emission of greenhouse gases:

During December 1997, more than 160 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate binding limitations on greenhouse gases for the developed nations, pursuant to the objectives of the Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992. The outcome of the meeting was the ‘Kyoto Protocol’, in which the developed nations agreed to limit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, relative to the levels emitted in 1990. The goal is to lower overall emissions from six greenhouse gases (GHGs) - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs - calculated as an average over the five-year period of 2008-12. The objective is to achieve "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. As of November 2007, 175 parties have ratified the protocol.

A. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to a set of a "common but differentiated responsibilities." The parties agreed that:

(a) The largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries;

(b) Per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low, and

(c) the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.

In other words, China, India, and other developing countries were not included in any numerical limitation of the Kyoto Protocol because they were not the main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions during the pre-treaty industrialization period. However, even without the commitment to reduce according to the Kyoto target, developing countries do share the common responsibility that all countries have in reducing emissions.

B. The developed countries commit themselves to reducing their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases by at least 5%. As per the convention, this group target will be achieved through cuts of 8% by Switzerland, most Central and East European states, and the European Union (the EU will meet its target by distributing different rates among its member states); 7% by the US; and 6% by Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland. Russia, New Zealand, and Ukraine are to stabilize their emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1%, Australia by up to 8%, and Iceland 10%.

Each country’s emissions target must be achieved by the period 2008-2012. Cuts in the three most important gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N20) - will be measured against a base year of 1990. Cuts in three long-lived industrial gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) - can be measured against either a 1990 or 1995 baseline.

C. Experts opine, actual emission reductions would be much larger than 5%. The richest industrialized countries (OECD members) would need to reduce their collective output by about 10%, as there was backlog. While the countries with economies in transition have experienced falling emissions since 1990, this trend is now reversing. Therefore, for the developed countries as a whole, the 5% Protocol target represents an actual cut of around 20% when compared with the emissions levels that are projected for 2010 if no emissions-control measures are adopted.

Some are skeptical about the scheme. They think Kyoto as a scheme to either slow the growth of the world's industrial democracies or to transfer wealth to the third world nations. Others argue the protocol does not go far enough to curb greenhouse emissions. Many see the costs of the Kyoto Protocol as outweighing the benefits.

Despite few oppositions majority of the countries support Kyoto protocol for reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and already started working in the direction of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

Carbon credit: As discussed above, the Kyoto Protocol has created a mechanism under which countries that have been emitting more carbon and other gases of GHGs have voluntarily decided that they will bring down the level of carbon they are emitting to the levels of early 1990s; thus carbon credits are generated by enterprises in the developing world that shift to cleaner technologies and thereby save on energy consumption, consequently reducing their GHGs.

A company has two ways to reduce emissions. One, it can reduce the GHG (greenhouse gases) by adopting new technology or improving upon the existing technology by attaining to the newer emission norms. Alternatively, the company may tie up with developing nations and help them set up new technology that is eco-friendly, thereby helping developing country or its companies 'earn' Credits. India, China and some other countries have the advantage because they are developing countries. Any company, factories or farm owner in India can get linked to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and know the 'standard' level of carbon emission allowed for its outfit or activity. The extent to which they are emitting less carbon (as per standard fixed by UNFCCC) they get credited in a developing country. This is called ‘carbon credit’. These credits are bought over by the companies of developed countries - mostly EU countries.

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