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The Kyoto Protocol and Global Warming

written by: Jarod Saucedo•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/17/2011

The Kyoto Protocol is an environmental agreement between certain countries in order to fight against global warming. In addition to other policies, the relation between the Kyoto Protocol and global warming is to reduce greenhouse gases.

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    Background the of Kyoto Protocol

    Air Pollution Global warming is a rising concern for many countries in the world today. In order to combat this, the Kyoto Protocol was established. Officially adopted in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol is linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which took place in 1994. The UNFCCC was a conference that focused on lowering or sustaining greenhouse gases (GHGs) that would affect the the atmosphere.

    According to the UNFCCC website, "The major distinction between the Protocol and the Convention is that while the Convention encouraged [industrialized] countries to stabilize GHG emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so." Therefore, the relationship between the Kyoto Protocol and global warming is that the former tries to reduce and stabilize the latter by setting mandates on industrialized nations.

    The six greenhouse gases that are linked to the Kyoto Protocol's fight against global warming and the resulting climate change are Carbon dioxide (CO2);Methane (CH4); Nitrous oxide (N2O);Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Of these six gases, the most targeted is carbon dioxide. Major players who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol include Japan, Russia, Canada, and various parties of the European Union, however the protocol has not been ratified by the United States because it believes the protocol is "flawed." To date, over 192 parties have agreed to the ratification of the document with more expected in the future.

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    Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol

    The Kyoto Protocol offers three different "mechanisms" that allow countries to try to stabilize their greenhouse gases. The first is known as "emissions trading." Based on a country's emissions, nations can participate in trading certain greenhouse gases based on their emission levels. For example, if a nation has its carbon dioxide below its mandated level, it can sell its difference to other countries which may be above their guidelines. This has been heavily criticized by environmental groups as it tends to allow welatherier nations and companies to continue polluting the environment while doing very little to address global warming.

    Another approach of the protocol is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This mechanism allows a country to enact a project that would limit or reduce certain emissions in a given time frame. Based on the success of this project, a country can earn "certified emission credits" (CERs) which are similar to emission trading.

    The last mechanism is called Joint Implementation (JI) project. This is similar to the last mechanism, however a country receives funds or aid from another nation in order to complete a project to reduce or limit their emissions. In return, nations have the potential to earn emission reductions units (ERUs).

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    Regulation and Future of the Kyoto Protocol

    Nations are regulated on their emission levels by the UN and are provided assistance and adaption if they are just starting with theCredits  program. If a nation falls below its mandated level, or ignores it, it cannot participate in emissions trading with other countries. Emissions trading is crucial to particular nations that are developing or if they are highly industrialized and are trying to earn carbon credits.

    The Kyoto Protocol officially went into effect in 2005 with countries that agreed to the protocol. At the end of 2012, the protocol will be evaluated, and by this time a new protocol will have to be negotiated and ratified in order to continue the process. Hopefully, the protocol will continue if it has been proven to be effective--and perhaps the United States will sign the new mandate.

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    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "Kyoto Protocol."


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