Examining the Prospects and Challenges of Implementing the Kyoto Protocol

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JULY 2008




This paper examined the Kyoto protocol its mechanisms and implementation in the light of attaining sustainable development especially in the developing world. It explains the problems of climate change which led to the enumeration of the Kyoto protocol as well as the challenges faced so far in its implementation. It also examines the prospects of its success vis-à-vis the criticisms and challenges which it has faced in the course of implementation. Some of these challenges include the argument that though Annex 1 countries have agreed to achieve the Kyoto target 5% reduction in their 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, it is no more than a pinprick in the menace of climate change. The Kyoto figures also exclude emission from aviation and shipping which are contributors to carbon footprints. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has also been said to offer technology transfer as sufficient in itself without underlying reference to the real energy needs of developing countries. The paper concludes that the Kyoto protocol is a step in the right direction to addressing the growing concerns over climate change and recommends that the far reaching effects of global climate change require that a joint effort by all the world’s nations such as is attempted by the Kyoto protocol is necessary to save the earth.


In recent times, scientists, environmentalists and development experts have been concerned with the deterioration of our natural environment which has been associated with development and industrialisation worldwide. This deterioration not only impairs human health but also causes loss of wild biodiversity and depletion of natural non renewable minerals (Baker, 2006: 3). There is also the realisation that the world is getting warmer as a result of the emission of greenhouse gasses, causing unprecedented climate change and that things will get worse unless something urgent is done. These realisations are perhaps what gave birth to the concept of sustainable development which according to the Brundtlandt report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 is defined as “meeting the needs of the


present generation without compromising the needs of the future generations” (Jhingan, 2007:22iie). Baker, (2006:5) explains that the sustainable development model represents an important example of the environmentalist approach which adopts a global perspective in its efforts to reconcile the ecological, social and economic dimensions of development, now and in the future. She adds that it promotes “a form of development that is contained within the ecological carrying capacity of the planet, which is socially just and economically inclusive...” and which focuses, “... not on the individual advancement but on protecting the common future of mankind”. According to Jhingan, (2007:22iif), sustainable development aims at the creation of sustainable improvements in the quality of life for all the people as the principal goal of development policy. He opined that besides increasing economic growth and meeting basic needs, sustainable development has the specific goals of bettering people‟s health and education opportunities, giving everyone the chance to participate in public life, helping to ensure a clean environment and promoting intergenerational equity. Todaro and Smith, (2006:470) linked poverty to environmental degradation. They stated that “the interaction between poverty and environmental degradation can lead to a self-perpetuating process in which as a result of ignorance or economic necessity, communities may inadvertently destroy or exhaust the resources on which they depend for survival...” and that “... the poorest 20% of the world‟s population will experience...
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