Was the Kyoto Protocol Successful? A Comparison of Europe and the USA

Posted on Nov 14, 2016

I. Introduction

The Kyoto Protocol which was signed upon on December 11, 1997 is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Under the Kyoto Protocol, signatory countries agreed to drop total emissions to 1990 levels. A total of 192 countries signed the agreement nearly all European countries. In the US, the senate expressed total disapproval of the treaty by stating that it : “would seriously harm the economy of the United States".

II. The Data

In order to compare the efforts of a Kyoto(Europe) and non Kyoto(USA) partner, the data of the CO2 emissions have been extracted from the annual monitoring reports of the World Bank. Since 2007 marks the 10 year anniversary of Kyoto protocol, our comparison will include CO2 emissions between 2007 and 2013 (the last available measurement).

In order to assess the level of CO2 emissions, I developed an interactive Shiny app to compare both Europe and the USA from 2007 to 2013. I define “Europe” as the countries of the European Union plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, Serbia, Kosovo, Moldova…. An explanation of the different features of the Shiny app is presented below.

III. Assessing the total level of CO2 emissions

The main goal of Kyoto protocol was to drop the total CO2 emissions per country to the 1990 levels. Since the population of the world has increased and that some countries as China and India have significantly increased their level of CO2 emissions, dropping these total emissions levels of CO2 as stated by Kyoto seems impossible regardless of the efforts of both Europe and the US.

Recently, CO2 emissions per capita have been considered as a ‘fair’ measure to assess the level of effort made by each country. Fig.1 shows an interactive map of both the US and for European countries comparing  CO2 emissions levels per capita for each year.


Fig. 1 : Interactive map of CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) for both the US and European countries

IV. Assessing the level of CO2 emissions per category

Another aspect of assessing CO2 emissions for both Europe and the US is to look at the evolution of the CO2 emissions per category including: transport, residential (households and private companies),industry and electricity consumption. Fig.2; shows an interactive bar plot of the evolution of the percentage of CO2 emissions per category for both the US and European countries per year.


Fig. 2 : Interactive bar-plot of the percentage of CO2 emissions per category for both the US and European countries

V. Assessing the level of CO2 emissions per capita after Kyoto protocol

In order to compare the efforts of both Europe and the US, an interactive bar plot shown in Fig.3 compares the levels of CO2 emissions per metric tons per capita for each year between 2007 and 2013 with the levels Kyoto protocol per capita.


Fig. 3 : Interactive bar-plot of the levels of CO2 emissions (per metric tons per capita) for both the US and the European region. It compares the total levels per year and Kyoto levels.

VI. Conclusion and Perspectives

Conclusion :

From comparing the data of CO2 emissions in both Europe(a Kyoto partner) and the US (a non Kyoto partner), we can see that both regions made an effort to reduce CO2 emissions per capita over the past decade.

Even if the Kyoto protocol was about the total level of CO2 emissions, European countries dropped 1 tonne per capita, but didn’t meet the target levels of Kyoto protocol CO2 emissions per capita. On the other hand, the US has been successful in reducing the level of CO2 by more than 3 tonnes per capita comparing to the stated goals of the Kyoto protocol.

Perspectives :

In order to better determine the efforts of each region of the world to reduce their impact on global warming, a comparison of the evolution of investments and the share of green energies could be a better way to measure the commitment of each country to reduce CO2 emissions.

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