B2.1.2 The Kyoto Protocol


Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change a structure based upon setting quantitative national emission limits was negotiated The resulting Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 1997.

The difference between the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Earth Summit) and the Kyoto Protocol is that the Convention encouraged countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whilst the Protocol commits them to.

The Kyoto Protocol agreed emission limits for industrialised countries. It sets binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.


The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. 184 Parties of the Convention have ratified its Protocol to date.

The Kyoto Protocol is generally seen as an important first step towards a truly global emission reduction regime that will stabilize GHG emissions, and provides the essential architecture for any future international agreement on climate change.

By the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, a new international framework needs to have been negotiated and ratified that can deliver the stringent emission reductions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has clearly indicated are needed.

 Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; http://unfccc.int/2860.php 


The US and Australia have signed the Kyoto Protocol however they have not ratified the treaty and remain outside the legal requirements of the Protocol.

The Protocol defines the limits in terms of the six greenhouse gases:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)


The future of the Kyoto Protocol

The Durban climate talks at the end of 2011 “saved” the Kyoto Protocol from oblivion, ensuring that there would not be a total collapse of legally-binding climate protection commitments after the first phase of the Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

“This is highly significant because the Kyoto Protocol’s accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told Reuters in an interview.

These rules, mechanisms and markets will ideally help smooth the way for a global treaty on climate action by 2015 and, in the meantime, other measures that become operational in 2012: the Green Climate Fund, an Adaptation Committee to better coordinate adaptation to unavoidable climate change impacts, and a Technology Mechanism to help green technology transfer between nations.

However, the sole international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions has been severely weakened. Canada withdrew from the treaty while Japan and Russia said they would not commit themselves beyond 2012. The United States remains aloof, while emerging economies like Brazil, China and India are exempt.

That leaves 34 industrialized countries—Australia, New Zealand and European nations—who have agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013. Significantly, they will represent just 15 percent of global man-made CO2 emissions. In the 1990s, Kyoto Protocol countries accounted for 33 percent of world CO2 emissions.

Source: Allianz “Agenda 2012: What Future for Kyoto Protocol?”

 In May 2012 Climate Change talks were held in Bonn. Unfortunately divisions emerged in the first few days as the EU and groups of developing countries clashed.

The EU had said (in Durban in 2011) it would sign on to an extension of the Kyoto protocol before it lapses at the end of this year in return for an agreement from all nations that a new binding treaty will be finalised by 2015 and enacted by 2020. However, negotiators are divided over how long the extended Kyoto protocol should operate, with developing countries insisting the treaty should continue to be enforced over five-year commitment periods, and the EU expressing its preference for an eight-year commitment period that would allow it to be replaced by the new international treaty in 2020.


In Doha, Qatar, on 8 December 2012, the “Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol” was adopted. The amendment includes:

  • New commitments for Annex I Parties to the Kyoto Protocol who agreed to take on commitments in a second commitment period from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020;
  • A revised list of greenhouse gases (GHG) to be reported on by Parties in the second commitment period; and
  • Amendments to several articles of the Kyoto Protocol which specifically referenced issues pertaining to the first commitment period and which needed to be updated for the second commitment period.

On 21 December 2012, the amendment was circulated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as Depositary, to all Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in accordance with Articles 20 and 21 of the Protocol.

During the first commitment period, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community committed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of five percent against 1990 levels. During the second commitment period, Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020; however, the composition of Parties in the second commitment period is different from the first.

Source: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php