February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1-2, JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1998
sources cited here give details and analyses of the Kyoto treaty
agreement. (Background material and a synopsis of the agreement were given
in Global Climate Change Digest last month (Dec. 1997.) According
to New Scientist (Dec. 20-27, p. 10), a deadlock was broken at the
last minute when the U.S. made a behind-the-scenes deal with Russia to buy
some of its pollution rights. This reflects the "bubble"
approach allowed in the treaty, whereby individual countries may combine
with others to jointly reach their emission goals. Prior to the
conference, only the countries of the European Union had taken this
Although some observers have hailed the deal as a diplomatic miracle,
the agreement is not expected to significantly slow the accumulation of
greenhouse gases. (See "Thirty Kyotos Needed to Control Warming,"
Science, p. 2048, Dec. 19; also Nature, pp. 649-650, Dec.
18-25.) To many, its main value lies in focusing attention on approaches
to reducing emissions and in establishing a framework for further
commitments. (Periodic reviews are built into the Protocol; the first is
not likely to occur for at least five years.) The Nature article
also outlines what is now needed from scientists to implement the treatymethods
for measuring and verifying greenhouse gas emissions, and a mechanism for
trading emissions allocations among countries. The latter is fraught with
scientific and practical pitfalls. (See New Scientist, pp. 3 and
7, Dec. 13.)
The Kyoto Protocol will be open for signing for one year beginning March
16, 1998, and will take effect 90 days after at least 55 Parties have
ratified it. Other requirements for activation imply that the U.S. in
combination with one or two other large emitters (such as Russia or Japan)
could scuttle the Protocol if they do not ratify it.
The Clinton Administration continues its campaign for domestic support
of the Protocol, and recently pledged not to submit it to Congress for
ratification unless developing nations also participate (Intl.
Environ. Rptr., p. 6, Jan. 7, 1998). Such participation is not
currently part of the agreement, but will probably be required by Congress
for ratification, and the Administration will seek it in future
international conferences. In his State of the Union Address, President
Clinton announced $6.3 million in tax credits and spending in the new
budget for global warming measures. A Harris Poll taken immediately after
Kyoto showed that three out of four Americans who are familiar with the
agreement support it.
For general accounts of the Kyoto meeting see Intl. Environ. Rptr.,
pp. 1107-1108, Dec. 10; Nature, p. 429, Dec. 4; Science News,
p. 388, Dec. 20-27; New Scientist, p. 6, Dec. 13; Time,
pp. 22-27, Dec. 22; Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, Dec. 12.
The entire Dec. 24 issue of Global Environ. Change Rep. consists
of a thorough analysis of the Protocol; other analyses appear in U.S.
News & World Rep., Dec. 15, and Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp.
131-135, Feb. 4. The final text appears on pp. 33-41 of Intl. Environ.
Rptr. (Jan. 7), and is available on the official U.N. Web site (http://www.unfccc.de/).
A commentary on unfairness in the Kyoto commitments appears in New
Scientist, p. 48, Jan. 17. See Global Change Electronic Edition
for other printed and electronic resources related to Kyoto.
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