What Are the Pros and Cons of the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol offers a framework to encourage countries to reduce their carbon emissions before climate change becomes an insurmountable problem, but it contains a number of loopholes and the economic effects can be significant. Several signatories have abandoned the protocol since its ratification, while others refused to join.

One common complaint about the Kyoto Protocol is its uneven enforcement. Developed countries were the first targeted by its guidelines, while developing countries received exemptions from its restrictions. While this is an important acknowledgment of the relative wealth and economic capacity of various countries, it has allowed developing countries, such as China and India, to bypass a number of key greenhouse gas restrictions. Since these countries are industrializing and producing more pollution in the process, this can be viewed as a potentially dangerous loophole.

The economic effects are another commonly cited problem with the Kyoto Protocol. Since fossil fuels are generally cheaper than renewables, reducing emissions means either switching to more expensive power sources or spending large amounts of money on emission control technologies. In addition, countries that ratify the treaty but fail to make the expected cuts in emissions face financial penalties.

With all its problems, however, the Kyoto Protocol addresses a major and world-spanning problem and has increased awareness of the potential threat of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.