Kyoto Protocol Summary : First International Treaty on Climate Change

Kyoto Protocol is the first international agreement on climate change. The objective of the Kyoto protocol was to keep the global temperature rise below 2 ºC. A comprehensive summary of the Kyoto protocol covering must know facts about it is provided below.

Kyoto Protocol Summary

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

Since the industrial era, the concentration of Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is constantly rising. The more these gases are there in the atmosphere, the more is the global warming. The global temperature rise changes the climate system. Since it is because of the gases emitted by man made industries, it is called anthropogenic influence in our climate system. 

The aim of the Kyoto protocol is to stabilize the level of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere.  

Know more about the present level of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Kyoto Protocol legally binds industrialized and developed countries to reduce the dangerous level of GHG’s in the atmosphere within a time frame.

Kyoto treaty was adopted in Kyoto city of Japan in 11 December 1997.  But it took it more than 7 years to come to force. It entered into force on 16 February 2005. At present 192 countries are party of the Kyoto protocol.

The concentration of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose sharply over the past 150 years. This is mainly because of the industrialized nations. This past emission is termed as historic emission. Kyoto protocol takes the past or historic emissions into account.

Based on their past emissions, Kyoto treaty gives more responsibility to developed countries to reduce emissions than the developing and poor nations. This forms the core of the protocol. It is known as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities“. 

It means that although all the countries have this common responsibility to reduce GHG emissions, but the level of commitment should be more from the nations that have emitted more such gases in the past. 

Based on the historic and current GHG emissions, the developed countries are required to take the lead to reduce the emissions of the greenhouse gases and respond to the climate change.

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

Kyoto Protocol Countries 

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

Kyoto Protocol countries are groups of Annex I, Annex II  and Non Annexed Parties of UNFCCC.

Annex I Parties of UNFCCC

In the Annex 1 of the UNFCCC there are 43 countries. It includes European Commission. These are industrialized nations that were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 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.

Kyoto Protocol Targets

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 the target of reducing their GHG emissions by 5% below 1990 levels during this time period.
  • Each Annex 1 country has been given total allowable emissions known as Assigned amount units (AAU) for this commitment period.

Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020)

  • The second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol is 8 year long. In this period 37 countries (Annex 1 party) committed to reduce GHG levels 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. 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 transitions to mitigate and adapt to the climate change.

Greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol

The emission of 6 Greenhouse Gases were targeted to reduce under the Kyoto Protocol: Carbon dioxide (CO2); Methane (CH4); Nitrous oxide (N2O); Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

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