We’re talking about the path to COP21, to the conference of the parties 21st year in Paris in 2015, a bit over a year from now. And I’ve been recounting the history of the climate change science and the climate change action. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC, was the high water mark, in a way; 1992 Rio Earth Summit world leaders got together; they adopted a solid convention, a solid treaty, which you’ve read now I hope. And it’s a well thought-out treaty. It said let the Annex 1 countries, the high-income world, lead the way to preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. And after the treaty went into force in 1994, the conference of the parties, that is all the countries that are signatories to the convention, began to meet.
This is the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto Protocol is the only protocol that we have agreed for actually implementing the UN Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol was put in place in 1997. And it had a period, a vigilance period, of force till 2012. And it accomplished a little bit but not enough to really change the needle, change the course of the planet as we hurl along towards more and more human-induced climate change. Well remember that the US government as it went off to Kyoto to join in the negotiations at the Kyoto Protocol was given warning by pretty obstreperous US Senate, which in the Byrd- Hagel amendment it voted 95-nothing to say don’t you sign that protocol unless the developing country parties are also taking on obligations.
But the developing country parties in Kyoto had a rather different view and and I think the right one from the point of view of international law. Certainly they said read the UN Framework Convention. The UN Framework Convention spells out very very clearly that it is the high-income countries, the countries on the list of Annex 1, including the United States and Europe and Japan and the countries of the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe that have to move first. These are the rich countries; they have the technology; they’re the ones that are putting the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere; they’re the ones that have been doing that for decades; and so the ones that bear the historic responsibility historical responsibility for raising and co2 concentrations in the first place and thereby putting the whole planet at peril. So that was a collision course already in play.
What happened at Kyoto? The Kyoto Protocol was adopted, was adopted by the Annex 1 countries and it covers the Annex 1 countries. It says that the high income world will take specific responsibilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the period 2008 to 2012 as a group Annex 1 countries agreed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent compared with the 1990 level. Now here’s a problem that we’ll be discussing in a bit more detail shortly.
You have many greenhouse gases. Six main anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide (N3), and flourine based industrial gases. So how can we talk about 5 percent reduction? Does it mean percent of each one or by what metric should this be measured? And here will introduce a concept of the carbon dioxide equivalent of each of these greenhouse gases. By measuring how each greenhouse gas changes the planet, warms the planet, creates a greenhouse effect relative to the effect of the carbon dioxide molecule we’re able to take a sumation across the 6 human-induced greenhouse gases to come up with an overall measure, which is called the carbon dioxide equivalent of the six greenhouse gases combined. And what the Annex 1 countries said is that they would reduce the emissions a that aggregate measured as carbon dioxide equivalent by 5 percent compared to the 1990 emission levels of this group of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. I should mention parenthetically, why do I keep saying anthropogenic greenhouse gases or remember human caused greenhouse gases? It’s because there’s another very very important greenhouse gas.
Water, which is not anthropogenic; it’s a naturally occurring greenhouse gas; it’s affected in its concentration in the atmosphere by human activity because as the atmosphere warms the atmosphere also holds more water and that water vapor has a greenhouse effect but the anthropogenic or human-caused greenhouse gases are the ones that humanity is directly putting into the atmosphere through industrial or other activities.
Now in the Kyoto Protocol, each country also took on a specific commitment of reducing its own emissions or increasing it to a limited amount as a national standard, in addition to this group commitment by the annex 1 countries of a five percent reduction. Some countries said will reduce our emissions by six percent or by eight percent. Some were even given some space for a small increase of greenhouse gas emissions because of their particular economic circumstances.
So the aggregate had to add up to a five percent overall reduction, and each country took a specific individual commitment. Then the Kyoto Protocol added a number of other features. It was not directed at specific commitments by non annex 1, that is developing countries, indeed as the original Framework Convention made clear the first efforts should start with the high-income countries. But the Kyoto Protocol invented particular mechanism, actually set of mechanisms, in this case called the Clean Development Mechanisms, to enable developing countries to join in the action in one way or another by saying we’ll take steps to reduce our own emissions voluntarily, we’re not bound at this stage by the Protocol or by the Treaty but to reduce those emissions voluntarily if someone will help us pay to do that and by the rules of the game, countries that had their own binding limits were able to perhaps exceed the limits in their own domestic emissions by engaging emissions reduction through a Clean Development Mechanism in developing countries. In other words the idea was a fairly complicated and indeed it became a pretty complicated set of mechanisms, not happily successful set of mechanisms, to link developing countries in through a voluntary but supervised approved set of means to enable rich countries to meet some of their obligations by undertaking emissions reduction projects in developing countries.
Well what can we say about the outcomes the Kyoto Protocol. Fairly complicated. The one thing we can surely say is that the Kyoto Protocol did not succeed in changing fundamentally the direction of Earth as a whole, humanity as a whole, in heading towards massive climate damage. Interestingly the Annex 1 countries as a group, as a group, did meet 25 percent reduction. This happened in part because of actions that some of these countries took. It happened in part because of a big recession that hit the world in 2008 thereby reducing industrial activity and burning of fossil fuels. That happened in part because in the post-communist, so-called transition era, in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, there was a very big drop of emissions in many countries as those countries experienced a massive transformation from the very heavy industrialization of the Soviet era. So as a group the Annex 1 countries did get the emissions down by a little bit above the five percent threshold but the fact of the matter is many countries never lived up to the Kyoto Protocol.
First on the list, the United States, not only did it not live up to the Kyoto Protocol, it never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. As I have mentioned President Clinton didn’t send it to the Senate. President Bush took the United States out entirely said forget it we’re not even gonna try. And several other major fossil fuel producing and using countries that were signatories to the Kyoto Protocol all along basically just threw them off and ended up not taking them very seriously at all.
I would mention in this list two very important countries. They’re big, advanced, technologically sophisticated and major producers of fossil fuels. These are Canada and Australia. Canada discovered how to use its vast heavy oil in Western Canada in the province of Alberta to produce petroleum for world markets. Saw riches before its eyes and said were not really going to meet Kyoto Protocol. Australia is one of the great coal producing countries of the world, and coal exporting countries in the world. Australia had a minerals boom over the last twenty years. It’s become a major provider of coal for the rapidly-growing Chinese economy and Australia also said it can’t meet the conditions and basically failed to honor the Kyoto Protocol. This graphic shows in red many of the countries that fell short of what they had promised to do back in 1997 and many of the countries in blue that outperformed the reduction of greenhouse gases that they had promised in 1997.
A mixed bag. Some countries acted, other countries did not. In the aggregate, partly because of action and partly because economic circumstance the Annex 1 countries slightly reduced their emissions relative to 1990 as Kyoto called. But some failed. The United States a did not take action, even though in the end it has had a modest reduction of emissions by now partly because of economic circumstances. But one can say the following overall point about the Kyoto Protocol: whether the Annex 1 countries did or didn’t, came close, fell behind from their specific commitments, the world as a whole has continued to have a very very strong overall increase of carbon dioxide emissions and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, that means adding in co2, nitrous oxide, methane and the flourine-based industrial gases.
That has not slowed. Why is that? That’s because in fact while the Annex 1 countries were the dominant users of fossil fuels up to UN Framework Convention and are still the rich countries in the world with the highest per person emissions of greenhouse gases the fact of the matter is that the non-annex one countries, the developing countries, experienced a surge of energy use, surge of economic development, and therefore a surge greenhouse gas emissions after 1997. When you add in the non-annex 1 country emissions with the annex 1 country emissions, boy we have missed the point. In a sense you could say that the US Senate had a little bit of a point saying, well the developing countries are gonna have to do something. But they didn’t have a moral or legal sense at all. The Annex 1 countries were right to say that the world had promised let the industrial world start this effort. What’s clear though is that arithmetically, when you look at the massive growth China, the other emerging middle income economies, the overall growth of the developing countries as a whole, the massive increase in fossil fuel use the in the developing countries the Kyoto Protocol did not really change the direction of the world. In terms of the upward march year by year, of more and more emissions of greenhouse gases, and therefore a trajectory of very very dangerous climate change.
Nothing like the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. Now this realization was more and more apparent in the early years. The previous decade, of course the withdrawal the US from the Kyoto Protocol was a shock, the rise of China and the world economy was an economic miracle, a great economic success, and also an amazement for the world. The fact that China is a coal-burning economy was becoming such a major emitter of carbon dioxide was also a wake-up call to a need to do more. And from Kyoto through each of the COP meetings Kyoto being COP3 and and onward, the realization came – we’re going to need a new approach. And in any event the Kyoto Protocol was set to end in 2012. So when it came to the 15th of these meetings COP15 in Copenhagen, with President Obama newly-elected promising action, with the realization that the Kyoto Protocol was nearing its expiration, with China having entered the ranks of one of the world’s most important economies and having overtaken the United States as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, the eyes were put on COP15 in Copenhagen.
This is the time. We need to make a change and COP15 in Copenhagen was the great hope in 2009 that a new approach and a new breakthrough would be met. Indeed it was the greatest gathering of world leaders on Climate Change really since the Rio Earth Summit. 115 heads of state and government came to Copenhagen. President Obama is newly elected, the highly popular US President was there, the chinese leadership, the world’s leaders assembled and this was going to be the place to make the breakthrough. The hope was that there would be an agreement in which both the Annex 1 and the non-Annex 1 countries jointly would commit to real action, that we would be able to take a step of realism in which there would be an effective and fair allocation of responsibilities and a new approach would be made.
And it was at that point recognized that the world could actually define, based on the science, at least a limit that we must not surpass in global warming. That was the idea that many scientists had put forward, that the European Union was championing, that a two degree celsius increase of temperature would be extremely dangerous to exceed and two degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit was put as the limit. Do not cross this boundary! To go beyond the two-degree Celsius limit was rightly recognized as extraordinarily dangerous and as we’ll be discussing in the future lectures. So Copenhagen: here’s the big hope. A two degree C limit; a universal agreement; financing of specific amounts, indeed a hundred billion dollars a year for developing countries from developed countries by the year 2022 to enable the developing countries both to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the ongoing climate change.
Big hopes. Great drama. Last-minute negotiations. And it wasn’t to be. The leaders just couldn’t reach an agreement. They made some declarations. They made some notable announcements – the two degrees Celsius limit, the hundred billion dollars a year – but they couldn’t agree and it was a huge emotional deflation. A huge political deflation. Kyoto hadn’t worked. Copenhagen would be it. Copenhagen collapsed and in a way we’re still picking up the pieces. It is from Copenhagen to Paris now that we put our great hopes and we resolve, all the world leaders are resolved, don’t have the Copenhagen experience again in Paris in 2015 at COP21. Let’s find a path to real success.