Kyoto Shimbun 1997.12.12

Kyoto Protocol Adoption: A Historical First Step to Fruition

The Global Summit on Climate Warming has closed with the adoption of a protocol with the first-ever globally legal binding power, including target values for reducing greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2) across a five-year period from around 2010 to 1990 level xide king cuts as follows: EU 8%, US 7%, and Japan 6%, with an average reduction of 5.2% among the developed nations.

The fledgling Kyoto Protocol is still incomplete. Although it has decided to reduce emissions by an average of 5.2% to 1990 levels among the developed countries by about the year 2010, "Only the considerable loopholes that have emasculated the actual reduction in emissions is conspicuous" (Mie Asaoka, Head, Climate Forum). One such loophole is the right to trade in emissions. This system permits countries that have achieved more than their target reduction to sell their extra reduction quota to other countries. Russia, whose emissions have fallen sharply in the midst of an economic slump, has an easy target of 0% reductions, and seems likely to hold the rights to large quantities of emissions.

If a country purchases emission rights from Russia, they will be able to clear their target reduction according to the treaty very easily, even if they do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses domestically. In spite of strong opposition from the developing countries, the details will be decided for introduction at the next conference. Although three types of CFC substitutes have been subject to control, in addition to CO2, nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane, the calculation base has been taken as "comparable to 1995 levels," differing from other gasses. Environmental groups criticize the policy as being, "the same as watering down several percent of the reduction rate." Moreover, consideration was also given to the effects of CO2 absorption by forests, which is difficult to calculate scientifically.

Alongside the introduction of these numerous "loopholes," the fierce political negotiations in which the target values "changed several times in one night," caused an "inflation in reduction rates" (diplomatic sources). America, which advocated 0%, raised its target to 7%, and Japan, with her 2.5% proposal, was raised to 6%. On the other hand, the EU, which had advocated 15%, was finally reduced to almost half that, 8%, saying, "we cannot accept a target so vastly different from America's and Japan's." Greenpeace's Yasuko Matsumoto, who kept a close eye on the negotiations, points out that, "While outwardly improving the state of the world by raising the reduction targets, on the other hand, the loopholes have been magnified, and the developed nations share the idea of lessening the burden of reduction on their own economies."

The developing nations also held a deep distrust towards this attitude of the developed countries. The consensus of opinion that, "Global warming is the responsibility of the developed countries, who historically are responsible for massive emissions of greenhouse gasses. The developed countries should, first of all, seriously reduce their own emissions," (Indian delegation member) united groups from over 130 developing countries from start to ember) Accepting the American Senate resolution in July of this year that, "So long as the developing world does not participate in this protocol, we cannot ratify it," the American people have been active in trying to include in the protocol a system forcing developing countries to bear responsibility for suppressing emissions in the future. However, the last stages of the conference encountered fierce resistance from the group of developing nations, which had formed a strong union around China, and resignation was the only option.

One diplomat is quoted as saying, "The problem of global warming has become a central issue pivotal to the new, post-cold war opposition between America and China. The Kyoto Conference was a symbol of that." The world has, at long last, taken the first step towards preventing global warming, the damage from which extends across many centuries.