An overview of the Kyoto protocol
The Kyoto protocol is an environmental treaty which was formulated in 1992 by the United Nations framework. This treaty’s intention was to “stabilize” the greenhouse gas emissions and concentration in the atmosphere. Reducing these gases concentration would reduce the dangerous anthropogenic interference or effects on the ecosystem or the climatic systems. This agreement is binding on the countries which have adopted it and such countries commit themselves to reduction of greenhouse gases which include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and sulphur hexafluoride. Other gases included in this treaty are hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons which are produced by the annex 1. By the year 2008 about 183 parties had ratified the treaty (ICCP, n. d).
The Kyoto treaty includes “flexible mechanism” which includes emissions trading, joint implementations which are supposed to enable annex 1 economies meet the limitation of greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits for greenhouse emission from other countries and clean development mechanisms. The United States is a signatory of the protocol but is yet to ratify or withdraw from it. For this reason, the protocol is not yet binding on United States as it can only be binding after ratification (ICCP, n. d).
The Kyoto protocol has attracted or led to different debates with some group arguing that this treaty is overoptimistic while others argue that it may not actually reduce greenhouse mechanism especially due the flexibility mechanisms and differential treatment of the annex 1 countries.
Implication of globalization on labor movement’s effort to curb global warming
The debate on the effects of globalization in curbing global warming has been on the rise in the recent past. Global trade organization and treaties which aim at controlling the trade as well as the environment have been a major hindrance for labor movements in the united states in fighting acts which lead to global warming. The Kyoto protocol for example which has led to increased globalization has given the states the power to trade in carbon emissions. Trading in carbon emissions mechanism gives a country the right to buy emissions from countries or companies who emit less carbon gases. By giving such provisions, the trade movements’ efforts to force a company to reduce greenhouse emissions are thwarted or curtailed (Maslin, 2008).
Trade unions are mechanisms which are supposed to fight for the workers welfare. Greenhouse gas emissions by companies are detrimental to the health of the workers and it is the role of the trade unions to negotiate on behalf of workers for better working conditions. Globalization has disempowered these trade unions giving more power to the global treaties and organizations to control a country’s labor market. The Kyoto protocol gives industrialized countries authority to invest in developing countries in projects which reduce greenhouse gases instead of reducing these gases emission in their own countries. Under such an agreement, the labor movement’s efforts to reduce global warming by forcing companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are hindered (Tasini, 2007).
The flexible mechanisms contained in the Kyoto treaty are not beneficial to the workers in that they do not protect them from companies’ activities which expose the workers to health risks. Emissions trading mechanism in the protocol allows a company to purchase emissions from a company or country which produces less emissions. Countries or companies purchasing the emission credits are allowed to emit more greenhouse gases. This increases the workers health risks and thus such a mechanism is not beneficial to them (Maslin, 2008).
The clean development mechanism as noted above is a mechanism which gives a country with high gas emissions to invest in low gas emission projects in developing countries instead or reducing gas emissions in its own country which could be more costly. This mechanism does not encourage reduction of gas emissions in an industrialized country and as such worker are not the beneficiaries. Most developing countries have low greenhouse emissions which could earn the most industrialized countries emissions credit allowing them to emit more gases. This would be detrimental for the workers in industrialized countries (ICCP, n. d).
The third mechanism in the Kyoto protocol is the joint implementation mechanism. This mechanism allows the annex 1 countries to invest in reductions of greenhouse gases projects in other annex 1 countries with cost of such reductions are low. By doing so, the investing countries earn credits which are used to offset or meet their commitment goals. This mechanism also has no advantage to the workers in the investing companies since the greenhouse gases emission does not change (Jones, 2008).
The Kyoto protocol though established with an aim of reducing global warming, it has not accomplished this objective. The mechanisms in this protocol have served only to shift greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing it. Although some slight changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the air has been observed, they are not comparable to the initial aim of the protocol. The reduction in global emissions are recorded in developing countries which already have low greenhouse gas emission while such emissions continue to increase in industrialized countries (ICCP, n. d).
All the three mechanism contained in the Kyoto protocol has only served to shift gas emissions reduction programs rather than compelling the industrialized and annex 1 countries to reduce their gas emissions. These mechanisms also to some extent have encouraged increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Use of credits for emissions and emissions trading may encourage rather than discourage emissions.
Apart from the flexibility mechanisms in the Kyoto protocol, differential and impartial treatment of countries under the treaty has hindered its effective implementation. China is among the greatest carbon emitter in the world together with India and Germany. China is the second larges greenhouse gases emitter; however, it was exempted from the Kyoto protocol requirements. India also was exempted from the Kyoto requirements. This has hindered the lack of success of the Kyoto protocol implementation. The impartial treatment on countries like India and China which are top emitters of greenhouse gases has made countries like the United States not to ratify the treaty (ICCP, n. d).
Arguments on who has benefited most on the Kyoto protocol still remain unconcluded. Some people argue that the developing counties are the beneficiaries of this treaty since most industrialized countries invest greenhouse reductions project in them. The developing countries also benefit through transfer to technology. Also, these countries gain from lower volumes of greenhouse emissions courtesy of the investments. However, this has been counteracted on the basis that most of the developing countries emit low volumes of greenhouse gases and thus the investments done are not beneficial to them. On the contrary, the investing countries benefit from credits which they use to get more emissions in their own countries (Baker & Barrett, 1999).
The emissions trading allow industrialized countries to trade or acquire credits from countries with lower emissions. Most of the low emissions countries are the developing countries where emission reductions costs are low and thus the industrialized countries end up acquiring credits at lower costs than the actual cost which could be used for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. As such the Kyoto protocol only benefits the industrialized countries leaving out the poor and developing countries (Baker & Barrett, 1999).
In reaction to Kyoto protocol’s weaknesses, the international labor movement has been calling for the separation of Kyoto protocol and the internal functions of companies. They argue that despite the fact that Kyoto is an international body; the Kyoto mechanisms should not undermine or ignore the role of labor movements in a country. Companies in a country should not be immune to the labor movement while citing the Kyoto protocol. The international labor movement is also calling for the inclusion of labor movement members in the running of the Kyoto protocol (Foley, 2006).
Another concern of the international labor movement concerning the flexibility mechanism in the Kyoto protocol is that they have not set measures to ensure that obtaining credits for emissions are obtained at a significant amount to discourage the industrialized countries from purchasing them and rather to encourage gases reduction strategies by the countries. The Kyoto protocol has not been sensitive to the needs of the poor countries. The poor and developing countries are sidelined by the Kyoto protocol. The exemption of china and India from Kyoto’s requirements is also an issue which has been raised by the international labor movement. For Kyoto treaty to be effective, all countries should be treated or subjected to the Kyoto regulations impartially (Foley, 2006).
Global warming is an issue which is vital for the whole world and thus a commitment of all countries. Global warming affects the ecosystem of a place and is brought about by high concentration of greenhouse gases in the air. All countries are directly affected since global warming cannot be contained in a certain area. Strict measures should thus be taken to ensure all countries comply with international standards of conserving the environment. The contentious issues in the Kyoto protocol should thus be looked into and all countries should be encouraged to join the treaty.
Baker, D. & Barrett, J. (1999): Cleaning up the Kyoto Protocol: Emission permit trading would let developing nations reap profits from green policies. Retrieved on 20th February 2009 from,
Foley, J. R. (2006): Explaining local unions’ responses to globalization. Retrieved on 20th February 2009 from,
ICCP (n. d): Key Issues on the Flexible Mechanisms. Retrieved on 20th February 2009 from,
Jones, V. (2008): The Green Collar Economy. ISBN 0061734470, Published by HarperCollins
Maslin, M. (2008): Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction. ISBN 0192840975, Published by Oxford University Press
Tasini, J. (2007): Global Warming and Workers. Retrieved on 20th February 2009 from,