Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol

The Cayman Islands is now entering a new age when it comes to taking action against climate change. Having ratified the key international convention on climate change (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC) and its subsequent extension, the Kyoto Protocol, Cayman has undertaken to comply with a number of key criteria. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull investigates just what this entails in this first in a series of articles.

Global warming and climate change is happening all around us. While the skeptics still argue the projected severity of the impact of global warming should nothing be done, scientific observations as to the effects that have already taken place are undisputable. James Burt from the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change recently gave a presentation explaining the obligations and expectations of the Cayman Islands following the extension of the UK’s ratification of both the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in March 2007. He said that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (the three main “greenhouse gases”) had grown exponentially since the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1750 and climate change experts predict that the global temperature could increase by as much as six degrees Celsius over this century. Even a small increase in overall temperatures could have a huge impact on food, water, ecosystems and extreme weather, while the risk of abrupt and major irreversible changes, such as ice caps melting, have become of increasing concern for scientists. A major increase in temperature could have significant effects, including sea levels rising to such heights that they could threaten major cities.

Thus the UNFCCC was signed by at least 192 countries to date, to show a solidarity when it comes to sharing information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. This was an important first step in getting diverse countries to think along the same lines. The Kyoto Protocol extended the UNFCCC by committing developed countries to legally binding greenhouse emissions reduction or limitation targets. The UK signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 and in 2007 the extension of the UK’s ratification of both the UNFCCC and the Kyoto treaties to the Cayman Islands too effect. .

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

Although detailed rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol were actually adopted much earlier, in 2001, with the UK ratifying it the following year, the Kyoto Protocol entered into force in 2005. Overseas Territories such as The Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat, and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man agreed to become part of the UK’s ratification by extension.

The Kyoto Protocol sets legally binding targets for cutting developed countries’ greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride by 2012. Addressing all six gases is extremely important, as Burt pointed out, F-gases such as SF6 have massive potential to impact the atmosphere. One tonne of SF6, for example, has a global warming potential 23,900 times more than one tonne of CO2 over a 100 year time span.

Responsibilities under UNFCCC and Kyoto

Those countries which have ratified both the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol are required to take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise the cause of climate change and mitigate and adapt to its adverse effects.

Developed countries are required to take the lead and all parties must promote sustainable development.

The UK is legally bound to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12 ½ per cent below 1990 levels during the period 2008 to 2012.

How this can be achieved

All countries that are party to the Convention are required to take domestic action to reduce their emissions through national policies, programmes and measures, for example through encouraging the uptake of renewable energy for electricity generation and energy efficiency in using electricity. However, Burt explained flexible mechanisms that have been established under the Kyoto Protocol to further promote this reduction by developed countries that are party to the both the Convention and the Protocol.

Joint Implementation projects

These are projects undertaken in developed countries by other developed countries that have an emissions reduction target whereby special projects (such as the incineration of waste to create energy, or capture of landfill gas (methane) for energy) are designed to reduce overall emissions. Each project can accrue what are termed Emission Reduction Units, which can then be traded on the newly established carbon markets, for example through the European Emissions Trading Scheme. This allows companies and facilities that have had limits imposed on their greenhouse gas emissions through Kyoto to purchase emissions reductions from elsewhere, in order to assist in complying with their targets. The UK has decided not to host JI projects, which means by extension that neither can Overseas Territories. The UK Government has concluded that the JI projects within the UK do not represent a cost effective way to incentivise emissions reduction. However, Burt said that although the door was currently closed by the UK in this respect, “it was not locked” beyond 2012 as JI and the other mechanisms will likely feature in the post-Kyoto negotiations.

Clean Development Mechanism

These are projects undertaken by industrialised countries in developing countries that allow for otherwise unaffordable climate-friendly technologies to be transferred (such as solar power installations in South Africa). Carbon credits are accrued per project (known as Certified Emission Reductions or CERs), which again can then be traded and purchased by companies with targets to meet. CERs are issued by the CDM Executive Board and these projects must help the host country achieve its sustainable development goals.

Burt said that Cayman companies wishing to invest in CDM projects would need to apply to the UK government for approval, but that they would only approve such requests if the Cayman Islands government first gave the all clear in each case.

Cayman’s role

The Cayman Islands has undertaken to develop, update and publish data to allow the UK to produce its annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.

It is also required to implement programmes that will mitigate climate change by addressing greenhouse gas emissions and facilitate adaptation to climate change.

It must also promote cooperation in the development of technologies and practices that control or reduce greenhouse gas emission and promote sustainable management of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases (such as forests and oceans).

The Cayman Islands must also cooperate in and promote education, training and public awareness.

While the Cayman Islands is not required to reduce emissions to any set level, Burt said it would be an important step if Cayman chose voluntarily to set emissions limits. The Cayman Islands is however required to provide the UK government’s inventory compilers with information that assists the UK to compile its own emissions inventory which includes those of its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies that have joined its ratification of these treaties. This inventory is a detailed account of greenhouse gas emissions for that year covering fuel consumption, energy use or combustion activities in sectors such as energy, waste, transport, industry, agriculture, aviation, shipping, residential, commercial and institutional, supplied by key data providers. This information is reported directly to the UNFCCC annually. Ensuring that the Cayman Islands plays its part in providing accurate information in a timely manner is therefore part of the UK’s overall responsibilities to the UNFCCC.

The Cayman Islands does not have the expertise to compile its own emissions inventory (which is a heavily onerous task) so activity data is collated by the Cayman Islands Government’s Department of Environment and sent to the consultants commissioned by the UK government which then calculates the Cayman Islands’ emissions. The DOE relies heavily on the Economic and Statistics Office’s Annual Compendium of Statistics to provide the relevant information, as well as data requested from individual departments, authorities and private sector companies. This information covers such areas as power generation, distribution of fossil fuels, use of solvents, mobile machinery, aircraft movement by engine type, shipping by engine type, waste treatment and disposal, livestock and manure management, fuel imports and stocks, refrigeration and a/c units, as well as general statistics such as GDP and population.

Providing such information via an annual report to AEA Technology, an energy and climate change consultancy contracted by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change as the entity responsible for the actual emissions calculations, on a timely basis is critical.

Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie, Manager of the DOE’s Sustainable Development Unit, says, “We must submit our report by mid-September annually in order for our figures to be incorporated into the UK’s National Inventory Report. Unfortunately the Compendium of Statistics is not always available by then, so it requires a huge effort by the DOE to contact each individual agency and government department to extract the figures directly. We have also found that while some information might be easy for each department to provide, some information is not or it is not always in the format required. For example, the Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing provides the ESO with a breakdown by type of all vehicles currently registered in the Cayman Islands, but not the vehicles’ age. This information must be solicited directly from the Department. Other data may simply not be tracked at the moment, for example number of cement mixers or petrol lawnmowers. Therefore streamlining and collecting relevant information is an important task ahead.”

Next we look in detail at the policies and measures in place to mitigate climate change in Cayman, as well as ideas for new technologies to reduce emissions here. We also examine relevant Kyoto compliance provisions for the Cayman Islands.


From left, Gloria McField-Nixon, permanent secretary, Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Investment & Commerce; Dr. Frederick Ming, director, Department for Environmental Protection, Bermuda; Ellen-Kate Horton, permanent secretary, Ministry of Environment & Sports, Bermuda; James Burt, Department of Energy & Climate Change, UK; Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie, sustainable development coordinator, Cayman Islands Department of Environment; Tim Austin, assistant director, Research, Cayman Islands Department of Environment