The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol (update) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of July 2010, 191 states have signed and ratified the protocol.
Out of the 40 Annex-I countries, 37 countries have committed themselves to a reduction of 6 gases
- four greenhouse gases (GHG) viz. carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride
- Two groups of gases viz. hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons produced by them.
How much reduction?
The Annex I countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from the 1990 level. This limit does not include the emissions by the International aviation and shipping.
The above reduction is in addition to the industrial gases & chlorofluorocarbons committed under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Why 1990 Benchmark?
The Benchmark 1990 emission levels were accepted by the COP 3 on the basis of the values of “Global Warming Potential” calculated for the IPCC Second Assessment Report.
Position of United States:
United States was the party to UNFCC but it rejected the Kyoto Protocol. It was responsible for 36.1% of the 1990 emission levels of Annex I countries. The United States was required to reduce its total emissions an average of 7% below 1990 levels, but neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration sent the protocol to Congress for ratification.
- The Bush administration explicitly rejected the protocol in 2001.
- President George W. Bush said that the Kyoto Protocol is “economically irresponsible” and the United States will not ratify it.
Position of India, China, Brazil:
India, China and Brazil are considered to be the most advanced developing countries. They are in non annex group and they have no binding obligations in the Kyoto protocol to limit their CO2 emissions. They have not yet made up their mind to sign the treaty as Annex-I countries and come within the ambit of the legal obligations to the CO2 reductions.
Most Important Feature:
The establishment of commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases that are legally binding for Annex I countries is the most important point of Kyoto Protocol and the very heart of it. The groups were made on the basis of the countries 1997 economic capacity to commit themselves and their industry.
Most important limitation
Only a few countries were made part of the Annex-I group. The changes in the economy in last 15 years have raised the issues such as India and China being the advanced developing countries must enter into it as Annex I countries. The rift between developing and developed countries continues as of now.
Kyoto Mechanisms are also known as Flexible Mechanisms and they include Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation to lower the cost of achieving emission targets.
- Please note that Flexible Mechanisms and Carbon Sink were included at the COP 6 at Bon in Germany.
- Emission Trading: Emissions Trading-mechanism allows parties to the Kyoto Protocol to buy ‘Kyoto units'(emission permits for greenhouse gas) from other countries to help meet their domestic emission reduction targets.
- Joint Implementation: Any Annex I country can invest in emission reduction projects (referred to as “Joint Implementation Projects”) in any other Annex I country as an alternative to reducing emissions domestically.
- Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): Countries can meet their domestic emission reduction targets by buying greenhouse gas reduction units from (projects in) non Annex I countries to the Kyoto protocol.