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Just the Facts, Please

Our key facts on the Kyoto Protocol and its supposed impact on the environment.

July 24, 2001

Our key facts on the Kyoto Protocol and its supposed impact on the environment.

U.S. President George W. Bush made clear what his administration thinks of the Kyoto Protocol. That seems to doom any hopes for the agreement to be put into action. Yet, could Kyoto survive without U.S. ratification in a watered-down version? Our Globalist Factsheet explores what Kyoto is supposed to do for the environment.

In what way does the Bonn compromise differ from the Kyoto Protocol?

Whereas the Kyoto agreement required industrialized countries to cut emissions by an average of 5.2% below their 1990 levels over the next 11 years, the Bonn agreement will lower that figure to about 2%.


How do U.S. carbon emissions compare to those of other countries?

Already back in 1992, U.S. cars and light trucks alone produced more carbon dioxide than all but three other countries worldwide produced in total — including industry, power plants and all other kinds of carbon dioxide emissions.

(Washington Post)

How high are carbon emissions worldwide?

Global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion have fallen each year since 1998 — and by 0.6% in 2000, to just below 6.3 billion tons. The amount of carbon emitted per unit of global economic output also decreased by 3.6% in 2000.

(Worldwatch Institute)

What was the first Bush Administration’s stand on environmental issues?

Back in 1992, U.S. President George Bush Sr. signed the first international climate treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which targeted industrialized nations to reduce the release of chlorofluorocarbons.

(New York Times)

What did the Clinton Administration agree to do in 1997?

Under the Kyoto Treaty, the United States agreed to cut its carbon emissions by 7%. However, as of 2001, it stands at a level about 13% above its 1990 emissions level.

(Worldwatch Institute)

How far would the European Union have to go?

Under the Kyoto treaty, the EU agreed to cut its carbon emissions by 8%. As of 2001, it stands at a level about 0.5% above its 1990 emissions level.

(Worldwatch Institute)

What could explain this divergence?

Whereas U.S. population growth is forecast to grow by 25% between 1999 and 2015, population growth in Europe, Japan and Russia is about stagnant.

(World Bank)

What did Japan commit to?

Japan agreed to cut its carbon emissions by 8%. As of 2001, it stands at a level about 2.7% above its 1990 emissions level.

(Worldwatch Institute)

And what about the obligations of the developing countries?

While developing countries are currently not bound by formal emissions requirements, contrary to popular perceptions, many are already taking significant steps to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

(World Resources Institute)

Did the U.S. Senate in fact reject the Kyoto Treaty?

The U.S. Senate voted by 95:0 not to ratify the treaty — unless the least developed countries were committed under the Kyoto provisions as well.

(U.S. National Council for Science and the Environment)

Who pollutes the most?

As of 1997, 75% of all carbon dioxide emissions were spewed out by the rich world. By 2010, this number is projected to shrink to 50%, as the economies of the poorer nations grow.


How would the Kyoto Protocol come into force?

The Kyoto accord would take effect once ratified by 55 nations, which also represent 55% of 1990 carbon dioxide emissions. It would be binding to individual countries only after their respective governments’ ratification.

(Washington Post)

What would be the overall result?

Under the agreement reached at the climate summit in Kyoto, the total reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases for developed countries is estimated to be 5.2% from the 1990 level by 2010.

(European Union)

Does the United States have a point in challenging the exemption of developing countries?

By 2030, China will have 752 million urban residents. If each of these residents mimicked the transportation habits of the average San Francisco resident from 1990, the carbon emissions from transportation in urban China alone would be over one billions tons — the same amount of carbon released worldwide in 1998.

(Worldwatch Institute)

Is the United States the main culprit?

As of 1997, the United States emitted 5.5 tons of carbon per capita. While that is second only to Singapore, with 6 tons of CO2 emissions per capita, it is far above the Czech Republic (at 3.2 tons per person) and Russia (at 2.8 tons per person).

(New York Times)

How do other industrialized countries compare?

While Switzerland emits only 1.5 tons of carbon per capita and France 1.6 tons, Japan’s performance at 2.5 tons is only slightly better than that of Russia.

(New York Times)