Kyoto Commitments


See for the Complete Global Kyoto initiative.

The history and context for the signing as of 2005 lead to the question ‘ Now what must we do – as individuals, as a province?’ Taking the One Tonne Challenge HOME – to Ontario.

See also Kyoto at By the Individual, 7.3.9 National, 7.4.10 International.

Most impacts of climate change described are developed from impact assessments. These assessments are based on case studies of sensitivity to current and historical climate (e.g. extreme events). Climate change scenarios are used as models to project future conditions (e.g. ecosystems and economic sectors).  These projections identify risks due to climate change.

Uncertainties in the causes of climate change, the rate, range and the size of the changes make it more difficult to take actions to deal with impacts of climate change. The general public needs to become informed and help the government and agencies set policies and priorities in actions to limit the effects of climate change.

This creates a challenge for society as a whole to believe that human activities contribute to climate change i.e. Whether climate change is an issue to be concerned about, and whether they should act.  In the document below, projections for the future are based on what we know now.

The sooner mitigation or emission reduction policies are developed and put into action the more the cost of make the effort can be reduced. Not taking action because of uncertainties increases the risk and costs of damage due to the effects of climate change.

The graph below represents the global costs of stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at levels higher than 368ppm – the CO2 concentration in 2000. Look at this while thinking about Ontario which has 30% of Canada’s population and ? % of Canada’s GNP primarily through automobile production, agriculture and forestry.

However, uncertainty should not be used as an excuse not to act.  Failure to adapt may leave Ontario poorly prepared to cope with negative changes, and with increased probability of severe consequences.

As the climate continues to change, society’s ability to protect sensitive systems may be further challenged.  In addition, like the acid rain issue, there may be climatic surprises, e.g. unanticipated effects or a threshold change that may not necessarily be reversible after the stress is reduced or removed.

1. What is the concentration in parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2005?
2. What was the global population in January 2005?
3. Calculate the cost per person (per capita) on the planet – in US dollars- if the emissions levels were met for 450ppm.

Why is the Kyoto Protocol Important?

Climate change is a global problem and the solution must be global. Greenhouse gases affect the whole planet no matter where they are produced. Global solutions begin with promises made by one person – for themselves, for their country, or state. These promises can only come true when each person does their part.

2000 of the world’s top climate scientists work together for The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to gather data and explain the consequences and possibilities for our future. The IPCC estimates that the average global surface temperature is likely to increase by between 1.4 and 5.8ÁC by 2100. (Climate Change 2001 Synthesis Report p 206).

This may not seem like much of an increase, but small changes in the Earth’s temperature have had dramatic impacts in the past. The last time the earth’s average temperature was 5 degrees C colder, for example, Canada was covered with three kilometres of ice.

Climate change will affect our economy, our health and our quality of life.

How did the Kyoto Protocol come about?

In the 1980s, scientists began to link global warming with burning fossil fuels. Concerned scientists launched a series of international conferences to try to address the problem. The first one, The World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, was held in Toronto, Ontario, in 1988. Here scientists from 46 countries called for an international treaty on climate change. See and b and the role that stratospheric ozone played.

The World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program then established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC was directed to study the scientific data on climate change and come up with a recommendation. The IPCC said in 1990, that the world would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent to stabilize carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Canada became one of more than 155 nations to ratify this international agreement in 1992. Unfortunately, the voluntary emission reductions of the UNFCCC were ineffective and people realized that a stronger treaty was required. See

In 1997, countries from around the world met in Kyoto, Japan. That conference produced a Protocol to the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol established legally binding targets for those industrialized countries that ratify the agreement and the time frames within which those targets are to be met. The industrialized countries are called Annex I counties.

Emissions Reduction Targets Refer to the Kyoto graph at the top of this section.

The agreement commits Annex I (industrialized) countries who sign to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases by 5% by 2012. A specific target for each of the gases would be very complicated, so the overall emissions targets for all six is combined into “CO2 equivalents” used to produce a single figure for the country’s target.

A 5% group target is only the beginning of what must be achieved. It will probably only buy us 3-5 years to make the bigger reductions needed to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions and temperature change before more severe consequences of climate change are seen.

However, to achieve the 5% group target, individual countries have the following targets:

  • 8% emission cuts by Switzerland, most Central and East European states, and the EU (which will meet its target by distributing different rates among its members.)
  • 7% emission cut by the US
  • 6% emission cuts by Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland
  • Russia, New Zealand, and Ukraine are to stabilize their emissions
  • Norway may increase emissions by up to 1%
  • Australia may increase emissions by up to 8% Iceland may increase emissions up to 10%

The agreement allows a nation to meet its reduction quota by reducing emissions from power plants and automobiles. Developed countries may also achieve their commitments by deducting the greenhouse gas emissions absorbed by “carbon sinks” from their gross emissions in the commitment period.

Carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Recall that photosynthesis in green plants converts carbon dioxide into sugar. Reforestation and land use changes that involve growing plants are examples of carbon sinks.

David Suzuki Foundation website
UNFCCC website, May 18, 2004.

Part A General
1. What is the global percent reduction suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to stabilize global CO2 in our atmosphere at 500 ppmv?

2. Choose the graph for Canada. Notice that the source for actual emissions and projected emissions are different, so the starting point for the two lines is different.
a. What is our current CO2 emission rate (as of 1999)?
b. What was our projected emission rate for this year in 1990? Are we meeting our projected rate?
c. What is our Kyoto target for 2010?
d. What is the difference between our current rate and our Kyoto target?
e. What percent of our current rate is this difference? Compare this percent reduction required to meet our Kyoto target with the percent reduction on the graph. This was calculated based on the projections in 1990. How are we doing?

3. Refer to the graph for New Zealand. Is New Zealand likely to achieve its Kyoto target? Explain.

Part B Maps and Graphs

1. Go back to the Climate Chage and choose Kyoto Protocol Map Service.

2. Under 2000 Emissions choose per capita.
a. What does per capita mean?
b. What does this mean for each Canadian in 2000?
c. What % of Canada’s emissions are from Ontario? Emissions.

3. Determine the % of Canada’s population that lives in Ontario.Now calculate What are the emissions per capita in Ontario in 2000?

4. Under 2010, choose difference. Calculate the emissions for each Ontarian in 2010 see Question 2. What has happened by 2005? What does this mean for you?

Part C Policy and You

1. What changes in policy re emissions and electrical energy sources have been made by Premier McGuinty’s Ontario government which would help meet the Kyoto agreement?

2. What are the details in the core message of Ontario ‘We Conserve’ that affect you?

3. What personal changes can you have to make to meet your One Tonne Challenge? See Individual Challenge

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