Kyoto Protocol vs Paris Accord

The threat of global warming is accelerating at a faster rate. Can the Paris Accord catch up?


A polar bear on shrinking ice in the Arctic: climate change means the world is getting hotter (photo: Sven-Erik Arndt/Newscom)

By Adam Musa

Tranquility News Correspondent, North America

Boston, Massachusetts – From the early 1990s, scientists and climate activists have always blown the trumpet to alert on the dangers of a dual atmospheric crisis of the ozone layer depletion and global warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

“We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here,” former United States Vice-President Gore said at the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway in the year 2006.

“But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve the crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.”

Between 1992 and 2015: an estimate of 22 major global conferences was conducted, under the guidance of the United Nations to address GHGs. Several agreements have been ratified ever since. For today, the focus is going to be on two agreements: the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, and Paris Accord of 2015. 

The Kyoto Protocol

Raul Estrada, chairman of the third Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3), shakes hands with Japan’s environment chief, Hiroshi Oki, as the Kyoto Protocol is adopted in the ancient capital in December 1997. | KYODO

It is commonly referred to as Conference of the Parties 3 (COP3), and was held in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute(EESI) briefings: the Kyoto Protocol was adopted by consensus with more than 150 signatories. The Protocol included legally binding emissions targets for developed country Parties for the six major GHGs, which are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

The Protocol offered additional means of meeting targets by way of three market-based mechanisms: emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI). Under the Protocol, industrialized countries’ actual emissions have to be monitored and precise records have to be kept of the trades carried out.

Nevertheless, COP3 was a detailed agreement. But it is worthy to note the following:  

  • Developed nations were obliged to fulfill the mandate of the agreement
  • Out of 150 countries, 32 countries ratified the Protocol and faced emission commitments. Meaning 138 countries were non-committal to the agreement
  • The United States as a sole super-power was part of the agreement, but the Clinton administration never sent it to US Congress for ratification; rendering it a mere gesture of a symbolic commitment.

Was The Kyoto Protocol a success?

Amanda M. Rosen of Webster University, explains in her article: it was the wrong solution at the right time. She tailors her argument on the following premises: institutional design failure; there was no compliance from some parties; efficiency interms of policy analysis; and environmental guidance among others.

There is no straight answer as to why the Kyoto Protocol may not have succeeded as initially planned. However, the lessons from its outcome paved a way to subsequent climate agreements; with the latest being: Paris Accord.


The Paris Climate Agreement was adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of July 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 154 of which have ratified it

In December 2015, The Paris Agreement commonly known as COP21, was held in Paris, France   with 197 countries being signatories. Of which, 190 made formal approval to the policies in the agreement.

According to the United Nations Framework for Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC), the Paris Accord addresses some of the following key issues:

  • Long-term temperature goal  – is to limit global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
  • Global peaking and ‘climate neutrality’ — Parties aim to reach global peaking of GHGs as soon as possible, recognizing peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of GHGs in the second half of the century.
  • Mitigation – The Paris Agreement establishes binding commitments by all Parties to prepare, communicate and maintain a nationally determined contribution (NDC) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. It also prescribes that Parties shall communicate their NDCs every 5 years and provide information necessary for clarity and transparency. Developed countries should continue to take the lead by undertaking absolute economy-wide reduction targets, while developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move toward economy-wide targets over time in the light of different national circumstances.
  • Finance, technology and capacity-building support – The Paris Agreement reaffirms the obligations of developed countries to support the efforts of developing country Parties to build clean, climate-resilient futures, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by other Parties.
  • Transparencyimplementation and compliance  – The Paris Agreement relies on a robust transparency and accounting system to provide clarity on action and support by Parties, with flexibility for their differing capabilities. In addition to reporting information on mitigation, adaptation and support, the Agreement requires that the information submitted by each Party undergoes international technical expert review.

Even if COP21 seems to be the broadest climate agreement in comparison to the past agreements, in 2016, after the inauguration of then US president: Donald J Tramp, the Paris Agreement was railroaded by US withdrawal. Other countries attempted to keep it from further collapse, however, it was hard to sustain because of  financial constraints and lack of proper  global leadership.

But in January 2018, Al Gore, who is a prominent global climate activist, re-assured the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on how the US was still in schedule to meet its obligation in the Paris Accord. His statement provided hope to the rest of the world about US leadership in the fight against climate change, despite Trump’s administration withdrawal.

“Several governors of our largest states, hundreds of cities and thousands of U.S. businesses are now ensuring that the U.S. will not only meet but exceed the commitments it made under the Paris Agreement,” Gore, who was speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said.

Indeed, in January 2021, the new US administration under Joe Biden, rejoined the Paris Accord. A process that has once again filled the vacuum of global leadership; thus, ensuring all Parties involved – make commitment to the ratified policies.

The United States of America has officially rejoined the Paris Climate Accord. In the picture, US President Joe Biden is in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington. (AP)

Meanwhile, the Kyoto Protocol was very crucial in setting up the standard and commitment for developed countries on how to deal with GHGs on one hand.

And on the other hand, the Paris Accord has proven to be the ultimate test for majority nations in mitigating the effects of GHGs; nearly all the member states of United Nations have ratified to its policies.

Because of the continuous blowing of trumpet by scientists and climate activists on the depletion of ozone layer and global warming, in 2021, there is a renewed hope in combating, eradicating and mitigating the effects of climate change.






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