The Spirit of Kyoto

World attention on climate change and global warming became focused as never before when exhausted negotiators from161 countries adopted the Kyoto protocol to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change on the afternoon of December 11, 1997. Whatever its fate since then, the famous Kyoto protocol marked the first time that the world moved toward legally binding targets for the reduction of all major greenhouse gases in the hopes of averting a potentially catastrophic warming of the globe.

The negotiators fought their way through several issues:

As is well known, the Kyoto protocol became a political football, pitting political parties against each other, developing countries against industrialized countries, and governments against business. However, the spirit of Kyoto spread to some unexpected places: in October 2000, seven large corporations (including British Petroleum, DuPont, and Alcan of Canada) formed a coalition called the Partnership for Climate Action and pledged to make reduction of greenhouse gases a higher priority. Portland, Oregon had become the first U.S. city to implement its own carbon dioxide reduction plan, and was joined by municipal governments from Denver, Minneapolis, Copenhagen, and Helsinki.

The spirit, if not the letter, of the historic treaty will live on in a world the better for it.


Hileman, Betty. 2000. "Reducing Greenhouse Gases," Chemical & Engineering News, October 23, p. 11.

Kluger, Jeffrey. 2001. "A Climate of Despair," Time, April 9, pp. 30-36.

Ott, Herman. 1998. "The Kyoto protocol: unfinished business." Heldref Publications.