The Kyoto Conference, December 1997

 [red sky sunset] Nothing was ventured. Nothing was gained.

The Kyoto Protocol in a nutshell

A largely meaningless treaty, which the United States Congress with its anti-Kyoto majority has no intention of ratifying.

After some of the most complex international negotiations ever undertaken, the world's industrialised countries agreed on a legally-binding commitment to cut their annual emissions of climate changing pollution by an average of 5.2% from 1990 levels within the next 15 years. It is a figure that has outraged environmentalists and the vulnerable island nations for being too low, and which has been bitterly condemned by industrialists for being too high. The treaty does not require developing countries like China and India - themselves major polluters - to reduce their emissions at all.

In truth, a reduction of no less than 60% is the minimum required to reverse the process of global warming.

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"The most complex non-military accord in history", is how one delegate described the treaty approved in Kyoto to reduce global greenhouse gases. "A complete waste of time and energy", is how another summarised it. Agreement was only reached after significant concessions by the U.S. to the rest of the world.

The United States is the world's biggest climate-change polluter in both absolute and per capita terms. America's emissions have been rising steadily throughout the 1990s to the point where, if they were allowed to continue, they would reach levels in the year 2010 that are 30% HIGHER than they were in the treaty's baseline year of 1990. Under the protocol, the U.S. will be asked to REDUCE emissions by 6% over the same time span. So, will they?

Not only have we ended up with a largely meaningless agreement, but the U.S. Senate has pledged to kill off the little good it DOES carry.

"Dead in the water," is how many U.S. Senators have greeted the Kyoto international climate change treaty. In fact, they have pledged NOT to ratify it.

American corporations and trade unions alike have condemned the Kyoto conference. Long before the conference had even begun, they'd spent millions of dollars on advertising denying the existence of global warming. And corporate 'king' Lee R. Raymond, president of Exxon, spent time he should have been in the office breathalysing Exxon tanker captains travelling the world with the message that stabilising (let alone reducing) U.S. emissions would damage the American economy and throw the world into recession.

Since when has the health of the economy been more important than the health of our children? Basically, Mr. Raymond had declared war on prudence and responsibility before the Kyoto Conference had even begun.

OPEC, of course, wanted no action whatsoever to be taken! Their members would rather die wearing gold cufflinks than live wearing buttons.


Kyoto has opened the way for a free market in buying and selling pollution rights. This is how it would work: Each country would be given permits sufficient to cover 95% (in line with the agreed 5.2% cut) of the quantity of pollution it produced in 1990, to be used in the year 2010. Some countries will foresee being able to use less than their quota of permits, whilst others will find it difficult not to out-pollute their quota. So what happens? Countries with surplus permits will sell them to countries with insufficient permits to cover their own pollution levels.

Can it work? Is it just a means of allowing countries like the U.S. to go on polluting at ever-increasing levels in exchange for helping other countries to cut their rates (ie. American funding of clean fuel power stations in India in exchange for the Indian polluting permits such technology will free up)?

We'll keep you informed on developments in the pollution marketplace on this website. If you hear anything before we do, please write to us at

Non-governmental organisation members outnumbered official delegates by more than 2 to 1 - which merely underlines who's going to be doing all the work in the future.

The 166 governments participating in the Kyoto conference brought 1,500 official delegates between them. Lined up on the non-governmental organisation side were no fewer than 3,500 members representing the big NGO's such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and The World Wildlife Fund, and such diverse groups as the Solar Electric Light Fund, with one delegate, to the Kiko Forum, a giant coalition of Japanese groups with nearly four times the number of delegates as the United States. Although their strategies varied, these NGOs were united in their avowed aim to bring to book any government falling short of the mark.

A delegate from Greenpeace warned early on of the danger of an agreement being reached which would just let the politicians go back to sleep again. "People like us have got to make sure that they don't get away with it," he added.


These non results merely show us that the ball is once again in the court of the pressure groups. As with the New York Summit, Kyoto underlines the fact that no government is ever going to deliver a better world...that it's up to us as individuals and as pressure groups to chase and worry our leaders ceaselessly and effectively until they can see sense enough to begin the constructive dismantlement necessary to stabilise global temperatures.


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