Energy Policy

Kyoto to Paris


The Intervening Years

Beyond Kyoto

As the initial 2008-2012 phase of Kyoto drew to a close, UNFCCC meetings focused on what would come next. In particular, the intervening COPs emphasized addressing two of the biggest shortcomings of Kyoto:

  1. engaging the United States
  2. holding developing countries to binding emissions reductions

​​​​These two shortcomings are very tangled, and it really became a contentious game of chicken. The United States did not want to commit to binding emission reductions until developing countries also face binding targets, citing economic disadvantage if it were regulated, but economies like China and India were not. The developing world, however, is looking for the United States to join the rest of the developed world and take leadership on this issue before they agree to binding targets. They want reassurance of financial support in meeting these goals, and expect the historic emissions giants to take some bigger responsibility for their share in the global problem. Who will blink first?

Below is a summary of the action(and inaction) of recent annual meetings leading up to Paris in 2015.

Summary of UNFCCC COP meetings
Year Location Summary
2009 Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen Accord

Many people had high hopes for the negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009. President Obama's commitment to pricing carbon and responding internationally to the issues related to climate change gave hope that meaningful progress would be achieved in post-Kyoto planning. But the Conference talks did not yield binding commitments from the US or China and fizzled out with the adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, which was only agreed upon in the 11th hour and did not contain firm targets for a post-Kyoto world. It does, however, outline commitments of countries to reduce their emissions by 2020. The US published reduction is 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The ACES Act of 2009 (which passed the House but stalled out in the Senate) incorporated this reduction into its emissions cap.

International Institute for Sustainable Development Summary of the Accord

2010 Cancun, Mexico

Cancun Agreements

Expectations for the conference were quite low, especially given the mid-term elections in the United States. Almost all Republicans who were elected to the House and Senate publicly denounced the idea of human-induced climate change and campaigned strongly against measures to price carbon emissions. Many Democrats from manufacturing states and the coal belt have also taken a more skeptical stance on the issue.

While the perpetually difficult questions of what happens to the Kyoto Protocol and how to assign reduction targets and commitments were put on hold for a future meeting, there were some modest developments included in the agreements. The UNFCCC provides of the highlights of the agreements here.

2011 Durban, South Africa

Durban Platform

WRI provides a thorough summary of the Durban Platform, as well as analysis for what it means for moving forward.

2012 Doha, Qatar

Doha Climate Gateway - a series of agreements that were reached in five different tracks

Read more about the results in each of those tracks in this Brookings Institution summary.

2013 Warsaw, Poland

Closing Press Release from COP19 - A brief summary of the meeting

Warsaw Mechanism - outlines a protocol by which the wealthier countries of the world will assist the lower income ones in dealing with the impacts of climate change

While delegates were unable to agree on the specifics of a roadmap for the future of international climate policy, they do agree that policy will need to be adopted at the 2015 meeting in Paris and implemented by 2020 if we are to avoid the dire consequences of our greenhouse gas emissions.

2014 Lima, Peru

Lima Call for Climate Action

Overview of Adopted Decisions

2015 Paris, France

Governments agreed to contain warming to below 2 degrees C (relative to pre-industrial levels), with the hope of curbing that warming much closer to 1.5 degrees C.

Participating countries submitted national climate action plans, or INDCs. These alone do not allow us to achieve that 2 degree goal.

The Agreement itself describes the ways in which we can build on the INDCs to achieve the 2 degree goal.