December 7, 2022

News Tip: Impact of the Kyoto Protocol, 25 Years Later

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Summary: The Kyoto Protocol turns 25 this month. The framework signed on Dec. 11, 1997, committed industrialized countries and economies to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Comments from the following Duke University experts are available for use in your coverage. (Also, Duke’s efforts on fighting climate change are viewable here.)

Jackson Ewing

“The Kyoto Protocol set the foundation for nearly two decades of climate diplomacy and action. The course it created ultimately failed under the weight of differences between developing and developed countries, which were strongly divided by Kyoto. The Protocol still deserves credit, however, for elevating climate change urgency in the international arena at a time when we could have fallen even further behind.”

Jackson Ewing is a senior fellow at the Nicholas Institute of Energy, Environment & Sustainability and adjunct associate professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment.


Brian Murray

“Experience with the Kyoto Protocol shows the importance of flexibility in global governance of the climate problem. The Kyoto Protocol was fairly rigid, separating the world into countries that were required to cut their emissions and those that were not. But climate change is a collective-action problem that requires all countries to reduce emissions over time, some more than others. As the world has moved from the Kyoto framework to the Paris Agreement, wherein all countries pledge differentiated contributions to addressing the problem, the scale and scope of potential solutions has expanded, though delivery of collective results remains a challenge.”

Brian Murray is interim director of the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and research professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment.


Jonathan Phillips

“Movement on big problems is never linear. At best, it’s two steps forward, one step back. The Kyoto Protocol was a massive stake in the ground, a forcing agent that made governments, businesses, civil society and citizens take a position on the ultimate collective action challenge of our time. Kyoto may be gone, but many of its core principles — like common but differentiated responsibilities and partnership between rich and poor countries to deliver emissions reductions — remain pillars of international climate policy today.”

Jonathan Phillips is director of the James E. Rogers Energy Access Project at Duke University.


Drew Shindell

“The Kyoto Protocol moved the world from discussion about limiting climate change to a globe-spanning binding agreement with quantitative targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its impacts were relatively modest in that it did not set targets for developing nations, and, like most environmental agreements, lacked robust enforcement mechanisms. But if the Paris Agreement is eventually successful then at least part of the credit should go to its forerunner, the Kyoto Protocol, which set the stage for the world to act together to limit climate change.”

Drew Shindell is a Nicholas Distinguished Professor of Earth Science at Duke University.



This article originally appeared in Duke News.