Kyoto Protocol – Summary of First International Treaty on Climate Change

By | June 6, 2016

Kyoto Protocol (Treaty) is among the most important and initial global efforts to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degree Celsius. A comprehensive summary of the Kyoto protocol covering must know facts about the protocol is provided below.

What Is The Kyoto Protocol/Treaty?

Kyoto Treaty is an international agreement under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The objectives of the Kyoto protocol and the UNFCCC are same i.e. to stabilize Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) level in the atmosphere to prevent anthropogenic interference in the climate system.

Greenhouse gas emissions are principally responsible for anthropogenic influence of global warming and therefore to climate change.

Kyoto protocal is the legal arm of the UNFCCC. It legally binds industrialized and developed countries to reduce the dangerous level of GHG’s in the atmosphere within a timeframe.

Kyoto treaty was adapted in Kyoto city of Japan in 11 December 1997.  It entered into force on 16 February 2005. At present 192 countries are party of the Kyoto protocol.

Kyoto protocol takes into the account the fact that over past 150 years industrialized nations have contributed to the high level of greenhouse gases. This is termed as historic emission. Based on historic emissions Kyoto treaty places more responsibility towards developed countries to reduce emissions. This forms the core of the protocol known as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities“.

This division based on the economic conditions of the countries reflects that although all the countries share the common responsibility towards reducing GHG emissions but there is a difference in the level of commitment. This reflects the principal of ‘Common but Differential Responsibility’ of the Convention.

Based on the historic and current contribution, the developed countries are required to take the lead to response to the climate change.

Based on the economic conditions, countries are grouped under the UNFCCC in following manner:

Annex I Parties of UNFCCC

There are 43 countries including European Commission listed in the Annex 1 of the UNFCCC. These are industrialized nations that were members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 1992 and Nations with Economies in Transition (EIT).

Annex II Parties of UNFCCC

This is a subset of Annex 1 party consisted of 23 developed countries but the countries with Economies in Transition (EIT) have excluded from this group. These are highly developed countries.

Non Annex 1 Parties

Mostly developing countries come under the Non Annex 1 Parties to the Kyoto protocol.

Note : Kyoto Protocol Countries called Parties of the Protocol

How many countries have ratified the Kyoto protocol?

Currently, there are 192 Parties (191 States and 1 regional economic integration organization) to the Kyoto Treaty to the UNFCCC.

First Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012)

  • The time frame of first commitment period of Kyoto protocol was 2008-2012. 37 industrialized countries and European community (Annex I party) set target of reducing their GHG emissions by 5% below 1990 levels during this time period.
  • Each Annex 1 party has been assigned total allowable emissions known as Assigned amount units (AAU) for this commitment period.

Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020)

In this eight years long second commitment period 37 countries (Annex 1 party) committed to reduce GHG level by 18% below the level of 1990.

Four countries: Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia that were part of the First commitment period opted out from the new commitments while another four countries Belarus, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Malta are the newcomers that were not there in the first period but became joined it for the second commitment period.

United States of America (USA), the biggest polluter of GHG emissions, refused to become part of Kyoto protocol.

The protocol exempts more than 100 developing countries for legal commitment on GHG reductions. These countries include China and India.

Kyoto protocol also provides support to the developing countries and to the countries in economic transition to mitigate and adapt to the climate change.

Greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol

The first commitment period of the Kyoto treaty targeted following 6 GHG’s:  Carbon dioxide (CO2); Methane (CH4); Nitrous oxide (N2O); Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Through Doha Amendment, the seventh gas ‘Nitrogen trifluoride‘ was added to the list of regulated GHGs under Kyoto protocol. Its regulation applies in the second commitment period of the protocol.

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