Today in history – February 16, 2005 – the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change goes into effect.
In 1992 the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in order to meet the looming concerns of global warming. As greenhouse gas levels rose around the world it became clear that countries had to be committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This commitment came in the form of the Kyoto Protocol. Named after the city it was signed in, Kyoto, Japan, the agreement now has over 174 parties that have ratified the protocol. Of these 36 are have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas levels by at least 5% of the 1990 baseline. These targets must be reached within a five year time frame between 2008 and 2012. One notable exception, is the United States, even though it is a member of the UNFCCC. On February 16th, 2005 the protocol entered into force and will expire in 2012.
The Kyoto Protocol affects almost all the major sectors of the economy and is considered to be the most far-reaching agreement on environment and sustainable development ever adopted. Since its inception many governments have adopted new policies to meet their protocol commitments. And in the future the protocol will act as a framework for any international agreement on climate change. Some doubt the connection between greenhouse gasses and climate change. But, the Fourth Assessment Report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, launched this year may have put an end to those doubts.
Also one year ago today (February 16, 2007) presidents from many of the major players in the Kyoto agreement (including the United States) agreed on an outline to the successor to the Kyoto Protocol at the G8+5 Climate Change Dialogue held in Washington DC. One of the major components of this outline is a system of emission caps and carbon emissions trading apply to both industrialized and developing countries. They hope that this could supersede the Kyoto protocol in 2009.
For more information, see the Engineering Pathway’s resources on global warming and sustainable engineering. For related educational resources, visit the Environmental Engineering Education or the Green Design and Sustainable Engineering disciplinary communities.