The Kyoto Protocol
At the first COP, which was held in Berlin in 1995, the Contracting Parties decided that the specific commitments in the Convention of the Parties to Annex I were not adequate. They therefore launched a new series of speeches to decide on stronger and more detailed commitments for these countries. After two and a half years of intense negotiations, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP3 on 11/12/1997.
Kyoto Protocolindividually commits the Contracting Parties of Annex I to limit or reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, reaching a total cut of at least 5% from the 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 period.
The individual targets for the Contracting Parties of Annex I are listed in the Protocol in Annex B, and range from an 8% cut for the EEC and many other countries, to a 10% increase for Iceland.
(Under the terms of the Protocol, the EEC can redistribute its target among its 15 member states. An agreement has already been reached on this scheme, known as the "bubble".)
Although they are listed in Annex I of the Convention, Belarus and Turkey are not included in Annex B of the Protocol as they were not Parties to the Convention when the Protocol was adopted.
Targets include emissions from the six major greenhouse gases, namely:
• Carbon dioxide (CO2),
• methane (CH4),
• nitrous oxide (N2O),
• hydroflorocarbons (HFCs),
• perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
• sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).
Some specific activities in the change of land use and in the forestry sector (ie, deforestation, reforestation, etc.) that emit or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are also included.
The Protocol also establishes three innovative "mechanisms", known as joint implementation, emissions trading and the clean development mechanism, which are designed to help the Contracting Parties to Annex I to reduce costs to meet their emission targets by implementing or acquiring cheaper reductions in other countries than at home.
The clean development mechanism also aims to assist developing countries in achieving sustainable development by promoting environmentally-friendly investments in their economies by the governments of industrialized countries and businesses.
However, while these mechanisms were accepted in principle in the Protocol, their operational details must now be prepared.
In addition, the Contracting Parties must develop the acquiescence system outlined in the Protocol, and further work is also needed on measures for changing land use and the silviculture sector, on methodologies to assess and contain emissions, and on the obligations of make reports.
How to address the vulnerability of developing countries is another problem on the post-Kyoto political agenda; some of the developing countries, such as the small island nations, are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, others feel more threatened by the potential economic repercussions of mitigation actions.
The Convention recognizes both these dimensions of vulnerability, and also emphasizes the special situation of the least developed countries.
in 1998, the Contracting Parties accepted a work program, (the "
Buenos Aires Action Plan
") to reach an agreement on these various problems, to be completed in November 2000 by COP6.
The Kyoto Protocol remained open for signature from 16 March 1998 to 15 March 1999.
84 countries signed the Protocol during that period, including all the Contracting Parties of Annex I except two, indicating their acceptance of the text and the intention to become Contracting Parties (even the states that did not sign can become Parties).
To enter into force, the Protocol must now be ratified (
or adopted, approved, or accepted
) from the 55 Contracting Parties to the Convention, including those of Annex I which represent 55% of the carbon dioxide emissions from this group in 1990. Although
some countries have already ratified or accepted the Protocol ,
none of the Contracting Parties to Annex I has yet done so, and most are awaiting the results of the negotiations on the operational details of the Protocol at COP6.
Many Parties wish to bring the Protocol into force by 2002, in time for the tenth anniversary of the Rio Conference and the adoption and signing of the Convention.