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WIREs Clim Change
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The legacy of the Kyoto Protocol: a view from the policy world

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The Kyoto Protocol (KP) has played an important role in putting climate change action firmly on the political agenda and to deliver real reductions in industrialized countries' Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. It also led to widespread action in developing countries through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), although real emission reductions were much smaller than how they appear on paper. Policies to promote low emission technologies have been applied widely. Financial support to developing countries from public and private sources has grown to about US$100 billion/year. In 30–40% of CDM projects, foreign technology was used and the investment in renewable energy in developing countries rose to US$ 70 billion/year in 2011, with some Chinese and Indian manufacturers belonging to the top global suppliers. An extensive administrative machinery of reporting of emissions and other data, review, and enforcement has been built. And awareness of climate change, its impacts, and how to tackle it has grown enormously. However, as results from the past are not a guarantee for the future, the prospects for the KP look bleak. Geopolitical developments led to rejection by emerging economies to adopt the KP model of legally binding emission reductions, which triggered reluctance by major industrialized countries to continue this model. With the persistent rejection of the USA of the KP model, it seems a different approach will be needed. This could for instance be a system based on commitments that are only binding under national law or a system based on coordination of policies and measures across countries, which would ‘wake up’ an unused article of the KP. WIREs Clim Change 2013, 4:151–158. doi: 10.1002/wcc.216

Conflict of interest: The author has declared no conflicts of interest for this article.

Figure 1.

Emission levels of Kyoto Protocol Annex‐B Parties in 2009 and 2010 (excluding land‐use change emissions), compared with the base year. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 1. Copyright 2012 UNFCCC).

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Policy and Governance
Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change Governance
Policy and Governance > International Policy Framework
Climate and Development > Knowledge and Action in Development

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