Kyoto Protocol (KP)

The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (KP)

The Kyoto Protocol (KP) to the UNFCCC was adopted by the Parties to the UNFCCC on 11 December 1997. It entered into force on 16 February 2005, after the ratification by 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, including Annex I Parties responsible for 55% of this group’s carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. As of 16 September 2005, there were 156 Parties to the KP. Annex I Parties to the UNFCCC accounting for 61.6% of emissions in 1990 are Parties to the KP.

Objectives and approach

The KP, which supplements and strengthens the UNFCCC, is founded on the same principles as the Convention and shares its ultimate objective, as well as the way it groups and classifies countries. It provides for legally binding emission targets for industrialized countries and subsequent development of the rules for its implementation. Thirty-eight developed countries and the European Community as a whole must achieve a reduction of at least 5 per cent in annual greenhouse gas emissions during the first commitment period from 2008 to 2012, as set out in Annex B of the Protocol. The Protocol does not contain any quantitative targets for emission reductions in developing countries.

The KP’s rules focus on:

  • Commitments, including legally binding emission targets, and general commitments;
  • Implementation, including domestic steps and three novel implementing mechanisms (joint implementation, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and emissions trading);
  • Minimizing impacts on developing countries;
  • Accounting, reporting and review, including in-depth review of national reporting; and
  • Compliance.

Entry into force of the Protocol has brought into play modified reporting and review requirements, including additional reporting requirements on Annex I countries that are Parties to the Protocol, to enable monitoring of Kyoto targets. The Adaptation Fund created by the COP in 2001 has also become operational with the Protocol’s entry into force. The Fund, managed by the GEF, will finance practical adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries and support capacity-building activities.

In addition to emission targets for Annex I Parties, the Kyoto Protocol also contains a set of general commitments (mirroring those in the Convention) that apply to all Parties.

Institutional structure

The KP shares the Convention’s institutions, including its subsidiary bodies and secretariat. The Conference of the Parties serves as the “meeting of the Parties” to the KP (COP/MOP). In addition to the entities listed under the UNFCCC, the KP has created the CDM Executive Board, which guides and oversees the practical arrangements of the CDM and operates under the authority of the COP/MOP.

Subsequent decisions of the COP, which need to be confirmed by the COP/MOP at its first session which will take place in Montreal, Canada from 28 November to 9 December 2005, created the following bodies:

Article 6 Supervisory Committee: The Committee, created under the Guidelines for the Implementation of Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol adopted at COP 7, will supervise the verification of emission reduction units generated by projects under the joint implementation scheme established under Article 6 of the KP and said guidelines.

Compliance Committee: The Committee was established at COP 7 through the decision entitled Procedures and mechanisms relating to compliance under the Kyoto Protocol. The Committee consists of a bureau and two branches, namely the facilitative and enforcement branches. The facilitative branch will provide advice and assistance to Parties, including an “early warning” if a Party appears to be in danger of not complying with its target. On the other hand, if a Party does not meet its target, the enforcement branch can require the Party to make up the difference, including a penalty of 30 per cent, in the second commitment period. In addition, the non-complying Party must develop a compliance action plan. Until the satisfactory fulfillment of these requirements, a Party’s eligibility to “sell” credits under emission trading will be suspended.