CORRECTION: Kyoto Compliance Rules on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

March 7, 2006

The article that appeared on the IJ Web site yesterday, March 6, contained several factual errors concerning the adoption of a compliance and regulatory system for implementing the Kyoto Protocol on the emission of greenhouse gasses. We are indebted to Nick Nuttall of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for bringing the matter to our attention.

A corrected version of the article is as follows:

On Friday, March 3 the Kyoto Protocol’s Compliance Committee, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), issued a bulletin announcing that it has “taken up its operations as the last of the bodies established under the 1997 landmark environmental treaty to do so, and elected the Chairs of its Enforcement and Facilitative Branches at a meeting in Bonn, Germany.”

Ambassador RaĂșl Estrada Oyuela (Argentina), elected Chair of the Enforcement Branch, called the Kyoto Protocol compliance system “groundbreaking” and pointed out that the organ was “designed to ensure the environmental integrity of the agreement and to contribute to the credibility of the carbon market created by the Protocol.” Hironori Hamanaka of Japan was elected Chair of the committee’s Facilitative Branch.

The bulletin explained: “Under the Kyoto Protocol, 35 industrialized countries and the EEC are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below levels specified for each of them in the Protocol. Overall, this should amount to reductions of at least 5 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The 20-member Compliance Committee is tasked with dealing with cases of non-compliance with these and other obligations of the Protocol. Whilst the Enforcement Branch of the Committee has the power to determine consequences for Parties that encounter problems with meeting their commitments, the Facilitative Branch of the Committee is designed to provide advice and assistance to Parties in order to promote compliance.”

The system applies, however, only to those countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol. It does not affect the U.S., China, India or other countries that have failed to ratify the pact.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) welcomed the news. “Climate change is the most serious challenge facing the world and the Kyoto Protocol is the internationally agreed mechanism for averting it,” he stressed. “Kyoto has many carrots including the chance for developed nations to offset some of their emissions in developing countries through tree planting and renewable energy schemes, up to participating in the emerging carbon trading markets.”

“With today’s announcement, the Protocol also has teeth, as befits a legally binding treaty,” he added. “This in turn adds to the integrity of Kyoto and its provisions, in particular the credibility of the emissions trading markets.”

The announcement precedes a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – http://www.ipcc.ch. – Which is expected to be released by the end of March. Early reports indicate that the IPCC’s assessment will present the strongest evidence yet of the link between climate change, global warming, and the emission of greenhouse gasses, especially CO2.

The consequent disruption of normal weather patterns is being taken increasingly seriously by the insurance and reinsurance industries, who have come to realize that more frequent and more violent weather events could result in a lot more claims and higher losses.

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