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The Kyoto Protocol

The international community’s response to climate change: The Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, as the first major initiative for international cooperation on climate change mitigation. The convention entered into force in March 1995.
The aim of the convention is to stabilise atmospheric levels of greenhouse gas concentration in order to prevent man-made interference with the climate, and the signatory nations to the Convention commit themselves to report national greenhouse gas inventories every year, and to review the progress on their regional greenhouse gas abatement programmes. Other commitments are technological assistance to developing countries that are especially vulnerable to climate change and participation in the meetings of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention.

The 41 industrialised countries listed in the Annex I of the Convention are recommended to take emissions reductions domestically, while developing countries are exempted from immediate emission reduction measures, though may participate on a voluntary basis. All parties to the treaty agreed to mitigate climate change by, for example, promoting climate-friendly technologies.

The Kyoto Protocol

In 1997, at the third Conference of Parties to the Climate Convention (COP3), the Kyoto Protocol was drawn up, it was based upon the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change which dates back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil.

Signed in December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol called for a worldwide reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases by an average 5,2 percent below 1990 levels by the first commitment period of 2008 to 2012. Since the greenhouse gas emissions otherwise would have increased, the Kyoto Protocol will result in 2010 emissions levels that are approximately 20 % below what they would have if the Protocol had not been in place.

Different Parties adopted different targets:   
Switzerland, Central and East European states, the European Union*   -8 % 
United States  -7 %
Japan, Canada, Hungary, Poland -6 % 
Russia and Ukraine 0 %
Norway  +1 % 
Australia  +8 % 
Iceland  +10% 

* The EU opted for a “bubble” solution, allowing the distribution of a single Kyoto Protocol commitment between its member states.

The Kyoto Protocol has become legally binding

In order for the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force, it needed to be ratified by at least 55 countries that were responsible for at least 55 % of the Annex I countries' carbon emissions in 1990. When Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol on 18 November 2004, these requirements were fulfilled, and the Kyoto Protocol consequently entered into force on 16 February 2005.