By Daniel Bodansky
On December 31, 2012, the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period will expire. Unless states agree to a second commitment period, requiring a further round of emissions cuts, the Protocol will no longer impose any quantitative limits on states’ greenhouse gas emissions. Although, as a legal matter, the Protocol will continue in force, it will be a largely empty shell, doing little if anything to curb global warming.
This discussion paper analyzes the options going forward for the Kyoto Protocol, including adoption of a legally-binding second commitment period, a “political” second commitment period, or no new commitment period. It also considers the legal implications of a gap between the end of Kyoto’s first commitment period and the adoption of a new legal regime to limit emissions, the prospects for the Clean Development Mechanism in the absence of a second Kyoto commitment period, and the relationship between the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and the emerging regime under the Cancun Agreements .
Daniel Bodansky is Lincoln Professor of Law, Ethics and Sustainability, at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. This paper is based on a presentation made to a workshop organized by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Konigswinter, Germany in June 2011. The paper is published in Viewpoints, a publication of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements .