Only 38 countries committed themselves to reducing their emissions in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was signed. Those involved were European countries, Japan, Canada, the USA, Russia and Australia. They form “Annex I”. No limitations were set for other countries. Together, they decided to reduce their emissions by 5% between 1990 and 2012, and shared out the effort amongst themselves: -8% for the European Union, -6% for Japan and Eastern European countries, +10% for Iceland, etc.
Ten years later, there are mixed results: emissions have gone down by 4.7% but mainly thanks to former Soviet Union countries. Their global emissions decreased by 37% on average over the 10-year period because of the crisis linked to the switch to the market economy. The USA has still not ratified the treaty and Australia has only just done so. Their emissions have increased by 14% and 29% respectively. Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland’s emissions have increased because of strong economic growth over the past twenty years. New Zealand and Canada’s emissions have increased because mining resources are being exploited. Germany and the United Kingdom have reduced their emissions by over 15% thanks to policies that favour renewable energy and a reduction in industrial activity. France has just about reached its targets.
In spite of all this, the Kyoto Protocol marked an important step in international negotiations on the climate by setting quantified GEG emission reduction targets – the main treaty is part of the UNFCCC which only mentioned vague objectives. The limited result only partly explains the fact that the Kyoto Protocol was banking on the voluntary mobilisation of governments, and had therefore not thought of any ways of retaliating against those who would not abide by their commitment. This might change in the next treaty.