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Did the Kyoto Protocols Succeed?


It's fairly common to hear the Kyoto protocols dismissed as a well-intentioned failure. This is generally a reflection on the first year or two of the program, which got off to a bumpy start. But since then, the program has been doing quite well, and the "Annex B" countries -- the industrialized countries that ratified Kyoto and are legally bound to cut emissions -- are, as Bill Chameides details, "not only keeping up with but are in fact exceeding their Kyoto commitments. In 2007, their collective emissions were about 17 percent below the 1990 base year emissions." Conversely, as you can see on the graph atop this post, countries that didn't sign onto the protocol and haven't been making much of an effort have seen their emissions rise. Or, in the case of China, rocket.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 12, 2009; 3:01 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Two small (perhaps pedantic) points:

1) Kyoto Protocol. Singlular.

2) Most of the states of the world (including China but minus the United States) have "signed onto" (and ratified -- the US signed but didn't ratify) the agreement. But states in the developing world don't yet have emissions reductions obligations under Kyoto. Certainly it's essential that they do in some future agreement, but they nevertheless are members of the Kyoto Protocol so your statement isn't quite accurate.

Beth DeSombre
Frost Professor of Environmental Studies
Wellesley College

Posted by: edesombr | October 12, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse


To take this to the next step it would be good to see economic growth against growth or reduction in emissions. The China has had very high growth since the protocol was signed, and the US typically outgrows Europe and Japan.

Posted by: ChicagoIndependant | October 12, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

This chart doesn't really show anything, though. All it shows is that countries that were in favor of capping emissions did that, and those who didn't care to cap emissions didn't. What you'd have to look at to prove any more interesting point is find nations that were politically inclined to cap emissions but didn't, for some reason, sign on, or vice versa.

Posted by: goinupnup | October 12, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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