The Failure of the Kyoto Protocol as an International Environmental Regime

The Kyoto Protocol is one of the international regimes in the environmental sector which is intended as a continuation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Rapid technological development has implications for increasing economic capacity, but in the mechanism of human life this always collides with environmental issues that are often victimized by the rapid development that occurs. Technological advances have a significant impact on climate change, which at the same time will also affect the economy and human life (Napoli, 2012). So, seeking the creation of a mechanism to achieve public goods from environmental issues is urgent and given a deep focus, especially in the development of human life, one form of cooperation commitment in an international environmental regime mechanism is the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is one of the international regimes in the environmental sector which is intended as a continuation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the main projection of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Environesia, 2021). Primarily, this issue was initiated based on a scientific consensus that global warming is caused by high CO2 emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere at this time. The initial negotiations of this regime began in 1997 and only took effect on February 15, 2005 after the number of ratifying countries reached 55 countries (UNFCCC, 2015). However, since the beginning of this regime agreement, there have been many indications of polemics that have occurred, starting from the initial agreed policy mechanism to the initial initiator who finally did not ratify this agreement, some of these findings finally identified criticism of multilateral commitments in this environmental issue which seemed very ineffective and did not go according to the original plan.

The Kyoto Protocol as an international regime actually has various approaches that can be used as a tool to analyze the formation of this regime, one of which is through the Power-based approach where there are actors who institutionalize a hegemony so that they can dominantly support the formation of the desired Public Goods (Hasenclever et al., 2009). Based on this approach, the first criticism comes through the scheme created by the dominant power owner with the narrative of “Common but differentiated responsibilities” meaning that there is an agreed scheme to burden developed countries to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities. This makes it seem like there is no problem, but basically this mechanism allows developed countries to replace their emission reduction schemes with Join implementation, Emission trading, and Clean development mechanism or simply impose their responsibilities on other countries by using their economic power (Grunewald & Martinez-Zarzoso, 2016), without having to actually reduce the level of industrial emissions they produce. The use of power aimed at the mechanism of establishing this scheme is actually not intended to create public goods as an environmental solution but to maintain the competitive advantage of developed countries as the owners of power. It is simply taking advantage of the actions of others.

The second criticism. The United States, as one of the main actors along with Japan, and the European Union, which initially became one of the forces initiating the formation of this international regime and was expected to be an actor who had the power to encourage the creation of public goods, did not actually end up ratifying this international regime (Hovi et al., 2010). In fact, responsibly, the United States is also one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses. Simply put, the United States finally did not ratify because the economic and political interests they have cannot be implemented optimally when they ratify this international regime (AMPL, 2010), finally this has an impact on the lameness of the power supporting the stability of this international regime, and the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions tends to be nonsense with the absence of large greenhouse gas emitting countries.

The third criticism is still related to the implementation mechanism made in the Kyoto Protocol on the “Common but differentiated responsibilities” scheme. This scheme makes the responsibility of developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions not given special encouragement or simply no responsibility from developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions like developed countries. This forgets how countries that are still categorized as developing countries such as China, India, and Canada are rapidly developing their industries and becoming large producers of greenhouse gas emissions (Bassetti, 2022). The creation of the existing mechanism is seen without any scientific and scientific calculations related to the possibility of changes and industrial development of developing countries that tend to have the potential to advance rapidly. So that they can continue to develop their industries without worrying about reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, the failure of this international regime can already be predicted from the slow ratification process of countries. Furthermore, through the policy schemes issued in the Kyoto Protocol, it seems that it is not based on strong foundations ranging from scientific calculation data and effectiveness studies when the country finally ratifies this international regime, so it is not surprising why in the end this international regime is considered less effective in implementation.

Through the international regime approach, especially the power-based approach and the Knowledge approach, I provide several recommendations so that this international regime can be implemented effectively. The power-based approach as explained above requires power to encourage the creation of the desired public goods, so there needs to be a main actor who distributes power so that it can create conditions of stability. This strong actor is also expected to be an influencer for other countries to act and comply with agreed commitments. As with Hegemonic stability theory, it is necessary to mobilize leadership by a dominant force to command actors to act and establish relationships between actors (Ikenberry & Nexon, 2019).

The second recommendation is to use the Knowledge-based approach as the main basis for supporting the making of this international Rezin effectively. This approach allows for the involvement of other parties, namely the Epistemic Community as a group of experts who produce knowledge as the basis of information for countries to cooperate and comply with an international regime (Hasenclever et al., 1996). Through the information produced by the Epistemic Community, data as the basis for the creation of agreements and mechanisms for implementing the regime will be carried out based on scientific processes so that the calculations that occur will be more scientific and reasonable. Changes that occur in the duration of responsibility can also be properly mitigated. The concerns of countries regarding the sustainability of the regime and the benefits they will get become more real through the information they get, finally this information is what underlies the perception of the state to join the international regime.

Iqbal Tawakal
Iqbal Tawakal
M.Iqbal Tawakal Al Akbar, Postgraduate Student in the Master Of International Relations program, University of Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta.