|Long Name:||Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change|
|Date Signed:||11 December 1997|
|Date Effective:||16 February 2005|
|Condition Effective:||ratification by 55 States to the Convention, incorporating States included in Annex I which accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I|
|Depositor:||Secretary-General of the United Nations|
|Languages:||Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish|
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), aimed at fighting global warming. The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving the "stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."
The Protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of September 2011, 191 states have signed and ratified the protocol. The only remaining signatory not to have ratified the protocol is the United States. Other United Nations member states which did not ratify the protocol are Afghanistan, Andorra and South Sudan. In December 2011, Canada renounced the Protocol.
Under the Protocol, 37 countries ("Annex I countries") commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments. At negotiations, Annex I countries (including the US) collectively agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% on average for the period 2008-2012. This reduction is relative to their annual emissions in a base year, usually 1990. Since the US has not ratified the treaty, the collective emissions reduction of Annex I Kyoto countries falls from 5.2% to 4.2% below base year.
Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping, but are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are dealt with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The benchmark 1990 emission levels accepted by the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC (decision 2/CP.3) were the values of "global warming potential" calculated for the IPCC Second Assessment Report. These figures are used for converting the various greenhouse gas emissions into comparable CO2 equivalents (CO2-eq) when computing overall sources and sinks.
The Protocol allows for several "flexible mechanisms", such as emissions trading, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation to allow Annex I countries to meet their GHG emission limitations by purchasing GHG emission reductions credits from elsewhere, through financial exchanges, projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I countries, from other Annex I countries, or from annex I countries with excess allowances.
Each Annex I country is required to submit an annual report of inventories of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from sources and removals from sinks under UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. These countries nominate a person (called a "designated national authority") to create and manage its greenhouse gas inventory. Virtually all of the non-Annex I countries have also established a designated national authority to manage its Kyoto obligations, specifically the "CDM process" that determines which GHG projects they wish to propose for accreditation by the CDM Executive Board.
See main article: Global warming.
See also: Scientific opinion on climate change.
The view that human activities are likely responsible for most of the observed increase in global mean temperature ("global warming") since the mid-20th century is an accurate reflection of current scientific thinking.  Human-induced warming of the climate is expected to continue throughout the 21st century and beyond.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) have produced a range of projections of what the future increase in global mean temperature might be. The IPCC's projections are "baseline" projections, meaning that they assume no future efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC projections cover the time period from the beginning of the 21st century to the end of the 21st century.  The "likely" range (as assessed to have a greater than 66% probability of being correct, based on the IPCC's expert judgement) is a projected increased in global mean temperature over the 21st century of between 1.1 and 6.4 °C.
The range in temperature projections partly reflects different projections of future greenhouse gas emissions. Different projections contain different assumptions of future social and economic development (e.g., economic growth, population level, energy policies), which in turn affects projections of future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The range also reflects uncertainty in the response of the climate system to past and future GHG emissions (measured by the climate sensitivity).
Most countries are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 2 of the Convention states its ultimate objective, which is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (i.e., human) interference with the climate system." The natural, technical, and social sciences can provide information on decisions relating to this objective, e.g., the possible magnitude and rate of future climate changes. However, the IPCC has also concluded that the decision of what constitutes "dangerous" interference requires value judgements, which will vary between different regions of the world. Factors that might affect this decision include the local consequences of climate change impacts, the ability of a particular region to adapt to climate change (adaptive capacity), and the ability of a region to reduce its GHG emissions (mitigative capacity).
The main aim of the Kyoto Protocol is to contain emissions of the main anthropogenic (i.e., human-emitted) greenhouse gases (GHGs) in ways that reflect underlying national differences in GHG emissions, wealth, and capacity to make the reductions. The treaty follows the main principles agreed in the original 1992 UN Framework Convention. According to the treaty, in 2012, Annex I Parties who have ratified the treaty must have fulfilled their obligations of greenhouse gas emissions limitations established for the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period (2008–2012). These emissions limitation commitments are listed in Annex B of the Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol's first round commitments are the first detailed step of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Gupta et al., 2007). The Protocol establishes a structure of rolling emission reduction commitment periods, with negotiations on second period commitments that were scheduled to start in 2005 (see Kyoto Protocol#Successor for details). The first period emission reduction commitments expire at the end of 2012.
The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Even if Annex I Parties succeed in meeting their first-round commitments, much greater emission reductions will be required in future to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations.
For each of the different anthropogenic GHGs, different levels of emissions reductions would be required to meet the objective of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations (see United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change#Stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations). Carbon dioxide is the most important anthropogenic GHG. Stabilizing the concentration of in the atmosphere would ultimately require the effective elimination of anthropogenic emissions.
The five principal concepts of the Kyoto Protocol are:
Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community (the European Union-15, made up of 15 states at the time of the Kyoto negotiations) commit themselves to binding targets for GHG emissions. The targets apply to the four greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, and two groups of gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. The six GHG are translated into CO2 equivalents in determining reductions in emissions. These reduction targets are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are dealt with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Under the Protocol, only the Annex I Parties have committed themselves to national or joint reduction targets (formally called "quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives" (QELRO) – Article 4.1). Parties to the Kyoto Protocol not listed in Annex I of the Convention (the non-Annex I Parties) are mostly low-income developing countries, and participate in the Kyoto Protocol through the Clean Development Mechanism (explained below).
The emissions limitations of Annex I Parties varies between different Parties. Some Parties have emissions limitations reduce below the base year level, some have limitations at the base year level (i.e., no permitted increase above the base year level), while others have limitations above the base year level.
Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping. Although Belarus and Turkey are listed in the Convention's Annex I, they do not have emissions targets as they were not Annex I Parties when the Protocol was adopted. Kazakhstan does not have a target, but has declared that it wishes to become an Annex I Party to the Convention.
|Australia – 108% (2.1% of 1990 emissions) |
Austria – 87%
Belarus – 95% (subject to acceptance by other parties)
Belgium – 92.5%
Bulgaria – 92% (0.6%)
Canada – 94% (3.33%)
Croatia – 95%
Czech Republic – 92% (1.24%)
Denmark – 79%
Estonia – 92% (0.28%)
|Finland – 100% |
France – 100%
Germany – 79%
Greece – 125%
Hungary – 94% (0.52%)
Iceland – 110% (0.02%)
Ireland – 113%
Italy – 93.5%
Japan – 94% (8.55%)
Latvia – 92% (0.17%)
|Liechtenstein – 92% (0.0015%) |
Lithuania – 92%
Luxembourg – 72%
Netherlands – 94%
New Zealand – 100% (0.19%)
Norway – 101% (0.26%)
Poland – 94% (3.02%)
Portugal – 127%
Romania – 92% (1.24%)
|Russian Federation – 100% (17.4%) |
Slovakia – 92% (0.42%)
Slovenia – 92%
Spain – 115%
Sweden – 104%
Switzerland – 92% (0.32%)
Ukraine – 100%
United Kingdom – 87.5%
United States of America – 93% (36.1%) (non-party)
For most Parties, 1990 is the base year for the national GHG inventory and the calculation of the assigned amount. However, five Parties have an alternative base year:
Annex I Parties can use a range of sophisticated "flexibility" mechanisms (explained in the following sections) to meet their targets. Annex I Parties can achieve their targets by allocating reduced annual allowances to major operators within their borders, or by allowing these operators to exceed their allocations by offsetting any excess through a mechanism that is agreed by all the parties to the UNFCCC, such as by buying emission allowances from other operators which have excess emissions credits.
The Protocol defines three "flexibility mechanisms" that can be used by Annex I Parties in meeting their emission limitation commitments. The flexibility mechanisms are International Emissions Trading (IET), the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI). IET allows Annex I Parties to "trade" their emissions (Assigned Amount Units, AAUs, or "allowances" for short).
The economic basis for providing this flexibility is that the marginal cost of reducing (or abating) emissions differs among countries.  "Marginal cost" is the cost of abating the last tonne of -eq for an Annex I/non-Annex I Party. At the time of the original Kyoto targets, studies suggested that the flexibility mechanisms could reduce the overall (aggregate) cost of meeting the targets. Studies also showed that national losses in Annex I gross domestic product (GDP) could be reduced by use of the flexibility mechanisms.
The CDM and JI are called "project-based mechanisms," in that they generate emission reductions from projects. The difference between IET and the project-based mechanisms is that IET is based on the setting of a quantitative restriction of emissions, while the CDM and JI are based on the idea of "production" of emission reductions. The CDM is designed to encourage production of emission reductions in non-Annex I Parties, while JI encourages production of emission reductions in Annex I Parties.
The production of emission reductions generated by the CDM and JI can be used by Annex I Parties in meeting their emission limitation commitments. The emission reductions produced by the CDM and JI are both measured against a hypothetical baseline of emissions that would have occurred in the absence of a particular emission reduction project. The emission reductions produced by the CDM are called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs); reductions produced by JI are called Emission Reduction Units (ERUs). The reductions are called "credits" because they are emission reductions credited against a hypothetical baseline of emissions.
A number of emissions trading schemes (ETS) have been, or are planned to be, implemented.
domestic emissions trading in Norway started in 2005. This was run by the Norwegian Government, which is now a participant in the EU ETS.
the Swiss ETS, which runs from 2008 to 2012, to coincide with the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period.
The design of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) implicitly allows for trade of national Kyoto obligations to occur between participating countries (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 24). Carbon Trust (2009, pp. 24–25) found that other than the trading that occurs as part of the EU ETS, no intergovernmental emissions trading had taken place.
One of the environmental problems with IET is the large surplus of allowances that are available. Russia, Ukraine, and the new EU-12 member states (the Kyoto Parties Annex I Economies-in-Transition, abbreviated "EIT": Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine) have a surplus of allowances, while many OECD countries have a deficit. Some of the EITs with a surplus regard it as potential compensation for the trauma of their economic restructuring. When the Kyoto treaty was negotiated, it was recognized that emissions targets for the EITs might lead to them having an excess number of allowances. This excess of allowances were viewed by the EITs as "headroom" to grow their economies. The surplus has, however, also been referred to by some as "hot air," a term which Russia (a country with a surplus of allowances) views as "quite offensive."
OECD countries with a deficit could meet their Kyoto commitments by buying allowances from transition countries with a surplus. Unless other commitments were made to reduce the total surplus in allowances, such trade would not actually result in emissions being reduced (see also the section below on the Green Investment Scheme).
A Green Investment Scheme (GIS) refers to a plan for achieving environmental benefits from trading surplus allowances (AAUs) under the Kyoto Protocol. The Green Investment Scheme (GIS), a mechanism in the framework of International Emissions Trading (IET), is designed to achieve greater flexibility in reaching the targets of the Kyoto Protocol while preserving environmental integrity of IET. However, using the GIS is not required under the Kyoto Protocol, and there is no official definition of the term.
Under the GIS a Party to the Protocol expecting that the development of its economy will not exhaust its Kyoto quota, can sell the excess of its Kyoto quota units (AAUs) to another Party. The proceeds from the AAU sales should be “greened”, i.e. channeled to the development and implementation of the projects either acquiring the greenhouse gases emission reductions (hard greening) or building up the necessary framework for this process (soft greening).
Latvia was one of the front-runners of GISs. World Bank (2011) reported that Latvia has stopped offering AAU sales because of low AAU prices. In 2010, Estonia was the preferred source for AAU buyers, followed by the Czech Republic and Poland.
Japan's national policy to meet their Kyoto target includes the purchase of AAUs sold under GISs. In 2010, Japan and Japanese firms were the main buyers of AAUs. In terms of the international carbon market, trade in AAUs are a small proportion of overall market value. In 2010, 97% of trade in the international carbon market was driven by the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). However, firms regulated under the EU ETS are unable to use AAUs in meeting their emissions caps.
Between 2001, which was the first year Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects could be registered, and 2012, the end of the Kyoto commitment period, the CDM is expected to produce some 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in emission reductions. Most of these reductions are through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and fuel switching (World Bank, 2010, p. 262). By 2012, the largest potential for production of CERs are estimated in China (52% of total CERs) and India (16%). CERs produced in Latin America and the Caribbean make up 15% of the potential total, with Brazil as the largest producer in the region (7%).
The formal crediting period for Joint Implementation (JI) was aligned with the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and did not start until January 2008 (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 20). In November 2008, only 22 JI projects had been officially approved and registered. The total projected emission savings from JI by 2012 are about one tenth that of the CDM. Russia accounts for about two-thirds of these savings, with the remainder divided up roughly equally between the Ukraine and the EU's New Member States. Emission savings include cuts in methane, HFC, and N2O emissions.
IPCC (2001, p. 122) assessed how the Kyoto first-round emission reduction commitments might be consistent with a long-term aim of stabilizing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. For a 450 ppmv target (energy-related CO2), some analysts suggested that the first-round Kyoto commitments were inadequately stringent (IPCC, 2001, p. 122; Morita et al., 2001, pp. 152–153). The first-round Kyoto commitments were assessed to be consistent with emission trajectories that achieve stabilization at 550 ppmv or higher. Other analysts suggested that the first-round commitments could be weaker and still allow for a long-term 450 ppmv target (IPCC, 2001, p. 122).
According to a press release from the United Nations Environment Program:
"After 10 days of tough negotiations, ministers and other high-level officials from 160 countries reached agreement this morning on a legally binding Protocol under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2%.
The agreement aims to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases by 2008–12, calculated as an average over these five years. Cuts in the three most important gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) – will be measured against a base year of 1990. Cuts in three long-lived industrial gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) – can be measured against either a 1990 or 1995 baseline."
National limitations range from 8% reductions for the European Union and others, to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.
The agreement supplements the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which did not set any limitations or enforcement mechanisms. All parties to UNFCCC can sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol, while non-parties to UNFCCC cannot. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 3) in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Most provisions of the Kyoto Protocol apply to developed countries, listed in Annex I to UNFCCC.
National emission targets exclude international aviation and shipping. Kyoto Parties can use land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) in meeting their targets (Dessai, 2001, p. 3). LULUCF activities are also called "sink" activities. Changes in sinks and land use can have an effect on the climate (IPCC, 2007). Particular criteria apply to the definition of forestry under the Kyoto Protocol.
Forest management, cropland management, grazing land management, and revegetation are all eligible LULUCF activities under the Protocol (Dessai, 2001, p. 9). Annex I Parties use of forestry management in meeting their targets is capped.
The UNFCCC adopts a principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." The parties agreed that:
See also Greenhouse gas#Greenhouse gas emissions
Per-capita emissions are a country's total emissions divided by its population (Banuri et al.., 1996, p. 95). Per-capita emissions in the industrialized countries are typically as much as ten times the average in developing countries (Grubb, 2003, p. 144). This is one reason industrialized countries accepted responsibility for leading climate change efforts in the Kyoto negotiations. In Kyoto, the countries that took on quantified commitments for the first period (2008–12) corresponded roughly to those with per-capita emissions in 1990 of two tonnes of carbon or higher. In 2005, the top-20 emitters comprised 80% of total GHG emissions (PBL, 2010. See also the notes in the following section on the top-ten emitters in 2005). Countries with a Kyoto target made up 20% of total GHG emissions.
Another way of measuring GHG emissions is to measure the total emissions that have accumulated in the atmosphere over time (IEA, 2007, p. 199). Over a long time period, cumulative emissions provide an indication of a country's total contribution to GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2007, p. 201) compared cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions for several countries and regions. Over the time period 1900–2005, the US accounted for 30% of total cumulative emissions; the EU, 23%; China, 8%; Japan, 4%; and India, 2%. The rest of the world accounted for 33% of global, cumulative, energy-related CO2 emissions.
What follows is a ranking of the world's top ten emitters of GHGs for 2005 (MNP, 2007). The first figure is the country's or region's emissions as a percentage of the global total. The second figure is the country's/region's per-capita emissions, in units of tons of GHG per-capita:
The Protocol also reaffirms the principle that developed countries have to pay billions of dollars, and supply technology to other countries for climate-related studies and projects. The principle was originally agreed in UNFCCC. One of them is called The Adaptation Fund" ", that has been established by the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
The protocol left several issues open to be decided later by the sixth Conference of Parties (COP). COP6 attempted to resolve these issues at its meeting in the Hague in late 2000, but was unable to reach an agreement due to disputes between the European Union on the one hand (which favoured a tougher agreement) and the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia on the other (which wanted the agreement to be less demanding and more flexible).
In 2001, a continuation of the previous meeting (COP6bis) was held in Bonn where the required decisions were adopted. After some concessions, the supporters of the protocol (led by the European Union) managed to get Japan and Russia in as well by allowing more use of carbon dioxide sinks.
The first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP1) was held in Montreal from 28 November to 9 December 2005, along with the 11th conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP11). See United Nations Climate Change Conference.
On 3 December 2007, Australia ratified the protocol during the first day of the COP13 in Bali.
Of the signatories, 36 developed C.G. countries (plus the EU as a party in the European Union)agreed to a 10% emissions increase for Iceland; but, since the EU's member states each have individual obligations, much larger increases (up to 27%) are allowed for some of the less developed EU countries (see below Kyoto Protocol#Increase in greenhouse gas emission since 1990). Reduction limitations expire in 2013.
If the enforcement branch determines that an Annex I country is not in compliance with its emissions limitation, then that country is required to make up the difference during the second commitment period plus an additional 30%. In addition, that country will be suspended from making transfers under an emissions trading program.
Article 4.2 of the UNFCCC commits industrialized countries to "[take] the lead" in reducing emissions (Grubb, 2003, p. 144). The initial aim was for industrialized countries to stabilize their emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. The failure of key industrialized countries to move in this direction was a principal reason why Kyoto moved to binding commitments.
At the first UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Berlin, the G77 (a lobbying group that represents 133 developing countries, of which China is an associate (Dessai, 2001, p. 4)) was able to push for a mandate where it was recognized that (Liverman, 2008, p. 12):
This mandate was recognized in the Kyoto Protocol in that developing countries were not subject to emission reduction commitments in the first Kyoto commitment period. However, the large potential for growth in developing country emissions made negotiations on this issue tense (Grubb, 2003, pp. 145–146). In the final agreement, the Clean Development Mechanism was designed to limit emissions in developing countries, but in such a way that developing countries do not bear the costs for limiting emissions. The general assumption was that developing countries would face quantitative commitments in later commitment periods, and at the same time, developed countries would meet their first round commitments.
The choice of the 1990 main base year remains in Kyoto, as it does in the original Framework Convention. The desire to move to historical emissions was rejected on the basis that good data was not available prior to 1990. The 1990 base year also favoured several powerful interests including the UK, Germany and Russia (Liverman, 2008, p. 12). This is because the UK and Germany had high CO2 emissions in 1990.
In the UK following 1990, emissions had declined because of a switch from coal to gas ("Dash for Gas"), which has lower emissions than coal. This was due to the UK's privatization of coal mining and its switch to natural gas supported by North sea reserves. Germany benefitted from the 1990 base year because of its reunification between West and East Germany. East Germany's emissions fell dramatically following the collapse of East German industry after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany could therefore take credit for the resultant decline in emissions.
Japan promoted the idea of flexible baselines, and favoured a base year of 1995 for HFCs. Their HFC emissions had grown in the early 1990s as a substitute for CFCs banned in the Montreal Protocol (Liverman, 2008, p. 13). Some of the former Soviet satellites wanted a base year to reflect their highest emissions prior to their industrial collapse.
EIT countries are privileged by being able to choose their base-year nearly freely. However the oldest base-year accepted is 1986.
The G77 wanted strong uniform emission cuts across the developed world of 15% (Liverman, 2008, p. 13). Countries, such as the US, made suggestions to reduce their responsibility to reduce emissions. These suggestions included:
The US originally proposed for the second round of negotiations on Kyoto commitments to follow the negotiations of the first (Grubb, 2003, p. 148). In the end, negotiations on the second period were set to open no later than 2005. Countries over-achieving in their first period commitments can "bank" their unused allowances for use in the subsequent period.
The EU initially argued for only three GHGs to be included – CO2, CH4, and N2O – with other gases such as HFCs regulated separately (Liverman, 2008, p. 13). The EU also wanted to have a "bubble" commitment, whereby it could make a collective commitment that allowed some EU members to increase their emissions, while others cut theirs. The most vulnerable nations – the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – pushed for deep uniform cuts by developed nations, with the goal of having emissions reduced to the greatest possible extent.
The final days of negotiation of the Protocol saw a clash between the EU and the US and Japan (Grubb, 2003, p. 149). The EU aimed for flat-rate reductions in the range of 10–15% below 1990 levels, while the US and Japan supported reductions of 0–5%. Countries that had supported differentiation had different ideas as to how it should be calculated, and many different indicators were proposed: relating to GDP, energy intensity (energy use per unit of economic output), etc. According to Grubb (2003, p. 151), the only common theme of these indicators was that each proposal suited the interests of the country making the proposal.
The final commitments negotiated in the Protocol are the result of last minute political compromises (Liverman, 2008, pp. 13–14). These include an 8% cut from the 1990 base year for the EU, 7% for the US, 6% for Canada and Japan, no cut for Russia, and an 8% increase for Australia. This sums to an overall cut of 5.2% below 1990 levels. Since Australia and the US did not ratify the treaty (although Australia has since done), the cut is reduced from 5.2% to about 2%.
Considering the growth of some economies and the collapse of others since 1990, the range of implicit targets is much greater (Aldy et al., 2003, p. 7). The US faced a cut of about 30% below "business-as-usual" (BAU) emissions (i.e., predicted emissions should there be no attempt to limit emissions), while Russia and other economies in transition faced targets that allowed substantial increases in their emissions above BAU. On the other hand, Grubb (2003, p. 151) pointed out that the US, having per-capita emissions twice that of most other OECD countries, was vulnerable to the suggestion that it had huge potential for making reductions. From this viewpoint, the US was obliged to cut emissions back more than other countries.
Negotiations over the flexibility mechanisms included in the Protocol proved controversial (Grubb, 2003, p. 153). Japan and some EU member states wanted to ensure that any emissions trading would be competitive and transparent. Their intention was to prevent the US from using its political leverage to gain preferential access to the likely surplus in Russian emission allowances. The EU was also anxious to prevent the US from avoiding domestic action to reduce its emissions. Developing countries were concerned that the US would use flexibility to its own advantage, over the interests of weaker countries.
The protocol defines a mechanism of "compliance" as a "monitoring compliance with the commitments and penalties for non-compliance." According to Grubb (2003, p. 157), the explicit consequences of non-compliance of the treaty are weak compared to domestic law. Yet, the compliance section of the treaty was highly contested in the Marrakesh Accords. According to Grubb (2003), Japan made some unsuccessful efforts to "water-down" the compliance package.
When George W. Bush was elected US president in 2000, he was asked by US Senator Hagel what his administration's position was on climate change. Bush replied that he took climate change "very seriously," but that he opposed the Kyoto treaty, because "it exempts 80% of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy" (Dessai, 2001, p. 5). Almost all world leaders (e.g., China, Japan, South Africa, Pacific islands) expressed their disappointment over President Bush's decision not to support the treaty (Dessai, 2001, p. 6).
In order for the Protocol to enter into legal effect, it was required that the Protocol was ratified by 55 Parties including 55% of 1990 Annex I emissions (Dessai, 2001, p. 3). The US accounted for 36% of emissions in 1990, and without US ratification, only an EU+Russia+Japan+small party coalition could place the treaty into legal effect. A deal was reached in the Bonn climate talks (COP-6.5), held in 2001. According to the EU, the Kyoto Protocol had been saved (Dessai, 2001, p. 8). For the G77/China, the Bonn agreement represented the "triumph of multilateralism over unilateralism" (Dessai, 2001, p. 8).
|Afghanistan (non-party to Kyoto) |
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
|Dominican Republic |
Republic of Macedonia
Federated States of Micronesia
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
|São Tomé and Príncipe |
Somalia (non-party to Kyoto)
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United States (non-party to Kyoto)
Article 25 of the Protocol specifies that the Protocol enters into force "on the ninetieth day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Parties included in Annex I which accounted in total for at least 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Annex I countries, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession."
The EU and its Member States ratified the Protocol in May 2002. Of the two conditions, the "55 parties" clause was reached on 23 May 2002 when Iceland ratified the Protocol. The ratification by Russia on 18 November 2004 satisfied the "55%" clause and brought the treaty into force, effective 16 February 2005, after the required lapse of 90 days.
In 2011, Canada, Japan and Russia stated that they would not take on further Kyoto targets. The Canadian government invoked Canada's legal right to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on December 12, 2011. Canada was committed to cutting its greenhouse emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2009 emissions were 17% higher than in 1990. Environment minister Peter Kent cited Canada's liability to "enormous financial penalties" under the treaty unless it withdrew.  He also suggested that the recently signed Durban agreement may provide an alternative way forward. Canada's decision was strongly criticised by representatives of other ratifying countries, including France and China. A spokesperson for the island nation of Tuvalu, significantly threatened by rising sea levels, accused Canada of an "act of sabotage" against his country. Australian government minister Greg Combet, however, defended the decision, saying that it did not mean Canada would not continue to "play its part in global efforts to tackle climate change". Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent leaves after announcing that Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 12, 2011.
China is calling Canada's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol "regrettable" and says it goes against the efforts of the international community. Canada's move comes days after climate-change negotiators met to hammer-out a global deal in Durban, South Africa.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin expressed China's dismay at the news that Canada had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.
He says the timing is particularly bad, because negotiators at the just-concluded Durban conference made what he described as important progress on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period.
Liu says Canada's move goes against the efforts of the international community and is regrettable. He says Beijing hopes Canada will face up to its obligations, honor its commitments and actively participate in international efforts to fight climate change.
The Chinese negotiator at Durban, Xie Zhenhua, says he is concerned that developed nations are reluctant to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say exacerbate global warming. He also called on developed countries to provide financial and technical aid to help developing nations fight against and cope with the effects of climate change.
See main article: Kyoto Protocol and government action.
Total aggregate GHG emissions excluding emissions/removals from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF, i.e., carbon storage in forests and soils) for all Annex I Parties taken together (including the USA) decreased from 19.0 to 17.8 thousand teragrams (Tg, which is equal to 109 kg) equivalent, a decline of 6.0% during the 1990-2008 period. Several factors have contributed to this decline. The first is due to the economic restructuring in the Annex I Economies in Transition (the EITs – see Intergovernmental Emissions Trading for the list of EITs). Over the period 1990-1999, emissions fell by 40% in the EITs following the collapse of central planning in the former Soviet Union and east European countries. This led to a massive contraction of their heavy industry-based economies, with associated reductions in their fossil fuel consumption and emissions.
Emissions growth in Annex I Parties have also been limited due to policies and measures (PaMs). In particular, PaMs were strengthened after 2000, helping to enhance energy efficiency and develop renewable energy sources. Energy use also decreased during the economic crisis in 2007-2008.
UNFCCC (2011) made projections of changes in emissions of the Annex I Parties and the effectiveness of their PaMs. It was noted that their projections should be interpreted with caution. For the 39 Annex I Parties, UNFCCC (2011) projected that existing PaMs would lead to annual emissions in 2010 of 17.5 thousand Tg eq, excluding LULUCF, which is a decrease of 6.7% from the 1990 level. Annual emissions in 2020 excluding LULUCF were projected to reach 18.9 thousand Tg eq, which is an increase of 0.6% on the 1990 level.
UNFCCC (2011) made an estimate of the total effect of implemented and adopted PaMs. Projected savings were estimated relative to a reference (baseline) scenario where PaMs are not implemented. PaMs were projected to deliver emissions savings relative to baseline of about 1.5 thousand Tg eq by 2010, and 2.8 thousand Tg eq by 2020. In percentage terms, and using annual emissions in the year 1990 as a reference point, PaMs were projected to deliver at least a 5.0% reduction relative to baseline by 2010, and a 10.0% reduction relative to baseline in 2020. Scenarios reviewed by UNFCCC (2011) still suggested that total Annex I annual emissions would increase out to 2020 (see the preceding paragraph).
Collectively the group of industrialized countries committed to a Kyoto target, i.e., the Annex I countries excluding the USA, have a target of reducing their GHG emissions by 4.2% on average for the period 2008-2012 relative to the base year, which in most cases is 1990. According to Olivier et al. (2011), the Kyoto Parties with a target will comfortably exceed their collective target, with a projected average reduction of 16% for 2008-2012. This projection excludes both LULUCF and credits generated by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
As noted in the preceding section, between 1990–1999, there was a large reduction in the emissions of the EITs. The reduction in the EITs is largely responsible for the total (aggregate) reduction (excluding LULUCF) in emissions of the Annex I countries, excluding the USA. Emissions of the Annex II countries (Annex I minus the EIT countries) have experienced a limited increase in emissions from 1990–2006, followed by stabilization and a more marked decrease from 2007 onwards.
The emissions reductions in the early nineties by the 12 EIT countries who have since joined the EU, assist the present EU-27 in meeting its collective Kyoto target. At the end of 2010, the EU-15 was on track to achieve its Kyoto target, but three EU-15 Member States (Austria, Italy and Luxembourg) were not on track to meet their burden-sharing targets. Other countries not on course to meet their Kyoto target include Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Australia, Canada (Canada withdrew from the Kyoto treaty in 2011), New Zealand and Spain. In order to meet their targets, these countries would need to purchase emissions credits from other Kyoto countries. As noted in the section on Intergovernmental Emissions Trading, purchasing surplus credits from the EIT countries would not actually result in total emissions being reduced. An alternative would be the purchase of CDM credits or the use of the Green Investment Scheme.
Canada's environment minister, Peter Kent, informed a day after the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference that Canada will withdraw from the Kyoto accord (see the section on the withdrawal of Canada).
Belarus, Malta, and Turkey are Annex I Parties but do not have Kyoto targets. The US has a Kyoto target of a 6% reduction relative to the 1990 level, but has not ratified the treaty. Emissions in the US have increased 11% since 1990, and according to Olivier et al. (2011), it will be unable to meet its original Kyoto target.
If the US had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the average percentage reduction in total GHG emissions for the Annex I group would have been a 5.2% reduction relative to the base year. Including the US in their calculation, Olivier et al. (2011) projected that the Annex I countries would collectively achieve a 7% reduction relative to the base year, which is lower than the original target of a 5.2% reduction. This projection excludes expected purchases of emissions credits.
UNFCCC (2005) compiled and synthesized information reported to it by non-Annex I Parties. Most non-Annex I Parties belonged in the low-income group, with very few classified as middle-income. Most Parties included information on policies relating to sustainable development. Sustainable development priorities mentioned by non-Annex I Parties included poverty alleviation and access to basic education and health care. Many non-Annex I Parties are making efforts to amend and update their environmental legislation to include global concerns such as climate change.
A few Parties, e.g., South Africa and Iran, stated their concern over how efforts to reduce emissions by Annex I Parties could adversely affect their economies. The economies of these countries are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing, and export of fossil fuels.
GHG emissions, excluding land use change and forestry (LUCF), reported by 122 non-Annex I Parties for the year 1994 or the closest year reported, totalled 11.7 billion tonnes (billion = 1,000,000,000) of CO2-eq. CO2 was the largest proportion of emissions (63%), followed by methane (26%) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (11%).
The energy sector was the largest source of emissions for 70 Parties, whereas for 45 Parties the agriculture sector was the largest. Per capita emissions (in tonnes of CO2-eq, excluding LUCF) averaged 2.8 tonnes for the 122 non-Annex I Parties.
Parties reported a high level of uncertainty in LUCF emissions, but in aggregate, there appeared to only be a small difference of 1.7% with and without LUCF. With LUCF, emissions were 11.9 billion tonnes, without LUCF, total aggregate emissions were 11.7 billion tonnes.
In several large developing countries and fast growing economies (China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, and Iran) GHG emissions have increased rapidly (PBL, 2009). For example, emissions in China have risen strongly over the 1990–2005 period, often by more than 10% year. Emissions per-capita in non-Annex I countries are still, for the most part, much lower than in industrialized countries. Non-Annex I countries do not have quantitative emission reduction commitments, but they are committed to mitigation actions. China, for example, has had a national policy programme to reduce emissions growth, which included the closure of old, less efficient coal-fired power plants.
Barker et al. (2007, p. 79) assessed the literature on cost estimates for the Kyoto Protocol. Due to non-US participation in the Kyoto treaty, costs estimates were found to be much lower than those estimated in the previous IPCC Third Assessment Report. Without US participation, and with full use of the Kyoto flexible mechanisms, costs were estimated at less than 0.05% of Annex B GDP. This compared to earlier estimates of 0.1–1.1%. Without use of the flexible mechanisms, costs without US participation were estimated at less than 0.1%. This compared to earlier estimates of 0.2–2%. These cost estimates were viewed as being based on much evidence and high agreement in the literature.
See main article: Views on the Kyoto Protocol.
Gupta et al. (2007) assessed the literature on climate change policy. They found that no authoritative assessments of the UNFCCC or its Protocol asserted that these agreements had, or will, succeed in solving the climate problem. In these assessments, it was assumed that the UNFCCC or its Protocol would not be changed. The Framework Convention and its Protocol include provisions for future policy actions to be taken.
World Bank (2010, p. 233) commented on how the Kyoto Protocol had only had a slight effect on curbing global emissions growth. The treaty was negotiated in 1997, but by 2005, energy-related emissions had grown 24%. World Bank (2010) also stated that the treaty had provided only limited financial support to developing countries to assist them in reducing their emissions and adapting to climate change.
Some of the criticism of the Protocol has been based on the idea of climate justice (Liverman, 2008, p. 14). This has particularly centred on the balance between the low emissions and high vulnerability of the developing world to climate change, compared to high emissions in the developed world.
Some environmentalists have supported the Kyoto Protocol because it is "the only game in town," and possibly because they expect that future emission reduction commitments may demand more stringent emission reductions (Aldy et al.., 2003, p. 9). In 2001, sixteen national science academies stated that ratification of the Protocol represented a "small but essential first step towards stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases." Some environmentalists and scientists have criticized the existing commitments for being too weak (Grubb, 2000, p. 5).
The lack of quantitative emission commitments for developing countries led to the governments of the United States, and also Australia under Prime Minister John Howard deciding not to ratify the treaty (Stern 2007, p. 478). Australia, under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has since ratified the treaty,  which took effect in March, 2008.
In May 2010 the Hartwell Paper was published by the London School of Economics. The authors argued that after what they regard as the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, the Kyoto Protocol "has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years" and that this failure opened an opportunity for a re-orientation towards a climate policy based on human dignity instead of human sinfulness. 
See main article: Post–Kyoto Protocol negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions. In the non-binding 'Washington Declaration' agreed on 16 February 2007, heads of governments from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa agreed in principle on the outline of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. They envisage a global cap-and-trade system that would apply to both industrialized nations and developing countries, and hoped that this would be in place by 2009. 
On 7 June 2007, leaders at the 33rd G8 summit agreed that the G8 nations would "aim to at least halve global CO2 emissions by 2050". The details enabling this to be achieved would be negotiated by environment ministers within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in a process that would also include the major emerging economies.
A round of climate change talks under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007) concluded in 31 August 2007 with agreement on key elements for an effective international response to climate change.
A key feature of the talks was a United Nations report that showed how efficient energy use could yield significant cuts in emissions at low cost.
The Conference was held in December 2008 in Poznań, Poland. One of the main topics on this meeting was the discussion of a possible implementation of avoided deforestation also known as Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) into the future Kyoto Protocol.
After the lack of progress leading to a binding commitment or an extension of the Kyoto commitment period in climate talks at COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009, there were and will be several further rounds of negotiation COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico in 2010, COP 17 in South Africa in 2011, and in Qatar in 2012 (COP 18). Because any treaty change will require the ratification of the text by various countries' legislatures before the end of the commitment period on 31 December 2012, it is likely that agreements in South Africa or South Korea/Qatar will be too late to prevent a gap between the commitment periods.