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Kyoto: dead or alive?

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T. Beck
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This article examines the evidence for the claim that "Kyoto is dead" in the light of the first meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) held in Montreal in late 2005. Four possible scenarios are considered:the Protocol was dead on arrivalit died of congenital defectsit died of neglect and starvationit is alive but suffering a terminal illness.Within this framework, the paper argues that:sufficient sustenance was provided by the Protocol’s remaining partners to ensure it was born alive on 16 February 2005 without the support of the US or Australiacongenial defects include a lack of binding commitments on the part of major developing country emitters, the fact that Kyoto will only achieve a relative slowing in emission growth and not more substantial cuts, and the use of absolute targets which are claimed to be inflexible and costlydecisions made in Montreal mean that the Kyoto Protocol is now fully operational with the implementation and compliance rules known as the Marrakech Accords having been approvedcountries like Japan and Canada will find it particularly challenging to meet their targets and if they find it impossible this may eventually put the quantitative objective of the Protocol at riskthere are strong indications, however, that the central elements of the Kyoto Protocol, namely the flexibility mechanisms that have spawned the nascent international carbon market, will provide the foundations for what follows.Both in terms of its capacity to set the agenda for international emission abatement activity in the short and medium term, and its potential as a catalyst of a new generation of more effective international policy initiatives, the KP is very much alive.