Last edited 04 Dec 2015

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international agreement which commits participants to internationally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. It also assists countries in adapting to climate change through the Adaptation Fund by facilitating the development and deployment of technologies to increase resilience.

The Kyoto Protocol followed the UN conference on Sustainable Development held in Stockholm in 1972 and the world summit on sustainable development in Rio in 1992. It was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol the 'Marrakesh Accords' were adopted at the Conference of Parties in Marrakesh in 2001 and the Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005. Nearly all nations have now ratified the treaty, however, the United States has not.

Under the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities', the Protocol places a greater burden on developed nations in recognition of the fact that historically they have been principally responsible for emissions in the atmosphere.

Countries must meet their targets primarily through national measures, however there are three additional, market-based mechanisms available:

  • International Emissions Trading.
  • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
  • Joint implementation (JI).

These mechanisms are verified by the UN Climate Change Secretariat, based in Bonn.

The first commitment period (2008/2012) covered emissions of the six main greenhouse gases:

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

In the UK, the first commitment period target was to reduce emissions by 12.5% compared to 1990 levels. By 2012 emissions were estimated to be 26.7% below 1990 levels, but 24.9% below 1990 levels if emissions trading was taken into account (ref DECC UK Greenhouse gas emissions: Performance against emissions reduction targets 2012 provisional figures, 5 July 2013)

The second commitment period, from 2013 to 2020, sets an EU-wide target to reduce emissions to 20% below 1990 levels. The UK component of this has yet to be agreed, however, the UK’s Climate Change Act sets a legally binding commitment to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses by at least 34% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 8 December 2012. The amendment included:

  • New commitments in relation to the second commitment period from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020.
  • A revised list of greenhouse gases to include nitrogen triflouride (NF3)
  • Amendments to several articles of the Protocol.

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