Kyoto Protocol

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Editors: Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner
Date: 2006
Document Type: Treaty overview; Treaty; Excerpt
Length: 2,023 words
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Kyoto Protocol


By: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Date: December 11, 1997

Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "The Kyoto Protocol." December 11, 1997.

About the Organization: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change includes representatives from 154 countries, including the United States. It was formed during the second Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.


The Kyoto Protocol is a system of rules, regulations, and requirements that were agreed upon by a group of countries known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The major goal of the Protocol is to decrease the global emissions of six critical greenhouse gases to levels that are 5 percent below what they were in 1990.

The negotiations to develop an international treaty controlling greenhouse gases began in 1972, Page 319  |  Top of Articlewith the first Earth Summit in Stockholm, Sweden. Leaders from around the world gathered to assess the environmental conditions of the planet and decided to meet every decade for further discussions. The 1982 Earth Summit was scheduled to meet in Nairobi, Kenya, but because of the Cold War, the Summit was not successful.

The second Earth Summit took place in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where world leaders convened to discuss the growing concern over greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The result was the formation of the UNFCCC, which includes 154 industrialized countries including the United States, the countries of the European Union, Japan, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The UNFCCC does not include China or India. The convention concluded with a resolution to bring the emissions of greenhouse gases back to the levels that they were in 1990. This resolution was signed by the United States.

Following the second Earth Summit, the countries in the UNFCCC began meeting to flush out the details of the resolution signed in Rio de Janeiro. The first of these meetings, called Conference of Parties I or COP I, occurred in 1995 in Berlin. The meeting reiterated the Parties' commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases and set timeframes and goals for member nations to achieve agreed-upon reductions.

COP II took place in Geneva, Switzerland. The major outcome of this meeting was a declaration confirming that scientific information provided compelling evidence that global change was occurring as a result of human activities.

The Kyoto Protocol was the result of the third meeting of the UNFCCC, or COP III, between December 1-11, 1997. The Parties agreed that the emissions goals set at the second Earth Summit were not stringent enough. They reduced the global targets by five percent with mandatory targets for all the member countries. These targets depend on each country's individual economy and future emissions projections. For example, the United States' goal is a 7 percent reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases; Germany's is 25 percent; and Japan's is 6 percent. A key feature of the Protocol is that it establishes an emissions trading program so that countries can best decide how they will reach their goals. The Protocol also calls for additional meetings so that Parties can agree on penalties if a country fails to meet its emission targets.

The Protocol contains twenty-five articles. Articles 1 through 3 and Articles 25 and 28 are included here. Also included are Annexes A and B. Annex A identifies greenhouse gases and sources of greenhouse gases. Annex B lists the Parties to the agreement as well as their emission commitment. The numbers are percentages compared to their 1990 emissions.


The Parties to this Protocol,

Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as "the Convention,"

In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,

Recalling the provisions of the Convention,

Being guided by Article 3 of the Convention,

Pursuant to the Berlin Mandate adopted by decision 1/CP.1 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its first session,

Have agreed as follows:

Article 1 For the purposes of this Protocol, the definitions contained in Article 1 of the Convention shall apply. In addition:

  1. "Conference of the Parties" means the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
  2. "Convention" means the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in New York on 9 May 1992.
  3. "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" means the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established in 1988 jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.
  4. "Montreal Protocol" means the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, adopted in Montreal on 16 September 1987 and as subsequently adjusted and amended.
  5. "Parties present and voting" means Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote.
  6. "Party" means, unless the context otherwise indicates, a Party to this Protocol.
  7. "Party included in Annex I" means a Party included in Annex I to the Convention, as may be amended, or a Party which has made a notification under Article 4, paragraph 2(g), of the Convention.

Article 2

1. Each Party included in Annex I, in achieving its quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3, in order to promote sustainable development, shall:

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(a) Implement and/or further elaborate policies and measures in accordance with its national circumstances, such as:

(i) Enhancement of energy efficiency in relevant sectors of the national economy;

(ii) Protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, taking into account its commitments under relevant international environmental agreements; promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation;

(iii) Promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture in light of climate change considerations;

(iv) Research on, and promotion, development and increased use of, new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies;

(v) Progressive reduction or phasing out of market imperfections, fiscal incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments;

(vi) Encouragement of appropriate reforms in relevant sectors aimed at promoting policies and measures which limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol;

(vii) Measures to limit and/or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol in the transport sector;

(viii) Limitation and/or reduction of methane emissions through recovery and use in waste management, as well as in the production, transport and distribution of energy;

(b) Cooperate with other such Parties to enhance the individual and combined effectiveness of their policies and measures adopted under this Article, pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 2(e)(i), of the Convention. To this end, these Parties shall take steps to share their experience and exchange information on such policies and measures, including developing ways of improving their comparability, transparency and effectiveness. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, consider ways to facilitate such cooperation, taking into account all relevant information.

2. The Parties included in Annex I shall pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively.

3. The Parties included in Annex I shall strive to implement policies and measures under this Article in such a way as to minimize adverse effects, including the adverse effects of climate change, effects on international trade, and social, environmental and economic impacts on other Parties, especially developing country Parties and in particular those identified in Article 4, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Convention, taking into account Article 3 of the Convention. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol may take further action, as appropriate, to promote the implementation of the provisions of this paragraph.

4. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol, if it decides that it would be beneficial to coordinate any of the policies and measures in paragraph 1(a) above, taking into account different national circumstances and potential effects, shall consider ways and means to elaborate the coordination of such policies and measures.

Article 3

  1. The Parties included in Annex I shall, individually or jointly, ensure that their aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed in Annex A do not exceed their assigned amounts, calculated pursuant to their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments inscribed in Annex B and in accordance with the provisions of this Article, with a view to reducing their overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012.
  2. Each Party included in Annex I shall, by 2005, have made demonstrable progress in achieving its commitments under this Protocol.
  3. The net changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks resulting from direct human-induced land-use change and forestry activities, limited to afforestation, reforestation and deforestation since 1990, measured as verifiable changes in carbon stocks in each commitment period, shall be used to meet the commitments under this Article of each Party included in Annex I. The greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks associated with those activities shall be reported in a transparent and verifiable manner and reviewed in accordance with Articles 7 and 8….
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Article 25

  1. This Protocol shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Parties included in Annex I which accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
  2. For the purposes of this Article, "the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I" means the amount communicated on or before the date of adoption of this Protocol by the Parties included in Annex I in their first national communications submitted in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention.
  3. For each State or regional economic integration organization that ratifies, accepts or approves this Protocol or accedes thereto after the conditions set out in paragraph 1 above for entry into force have been fulfilled, this Protocol shall enter into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
  4. For the purposes of this Article, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organization shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by States members of the organization.

Article 28 The original of this Protocol, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. DONE at Kyoto this eleventh day of December one thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorized to that effect, have affixed their signatures to this Protocol on the dates indicated.

Annex A

Greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Methane (CH4)

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Sectors/source categories


Fuel combustion

Energy industries

Manufacturing industries and construction


Other sectors


Fugitive emissions from fuels

Solid fuels

Oil and natural gas


Industrial processes

Mineral products

Chemical industry

Metal production

Other production

Production of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride

Consumption of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride


Solvent and other product use


Enteric fermentation

Manure management

Rice cultivation

Agricultural soils

Prescribed burning of savannas

Field burning of agricultural residues



Solid waste disposal on land

Wastewater handling

Waste incineration


Annex B

Party Quantified emission limitation orreduction commitment (percentage of base year or period)

Australia 108

Austria 92

Belgium 92

Bulgaria∗ 92

Canada 94

Croatia∗ 95

Czech Republic∗ 92

Denmark 92

Estonia∗ 92

European Community 92

Finland 92

France 92

Germany 92

Greece 92

Hungary∗ 94

Iceland 110

Ireland 92

Italy 92

Japan 94

Latvia∗ 92

Liechtenstein 92

Lithuania∗ 92

Luxembourg 92

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Monaco 92

Netherlands 92

New Zealand 100

Norway 101

Poland∗ 94

Portugal 92

Romania∗ 92

Russian Federation∗ 100

Slovakia∗ 92

Slovenia∗ 92

Spain 92

Sweden 92

Switzerland 92

Ukraine∗ 100

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 92

United States of America 93

∗Countries that are undergoing the process of transition to a market economy.


The Kyoto Protocol text was adopted unanimously at the end of the COP III meeting. However, it was opened for signatures by the various countries in March of 1998. As described in Article 25, in order for the Protocol to be enforced, it must be signed by fifty-five countries representing at least 55 percent of the global greenhouse emissions.

Following the meeting in Kyoto, the Conference of Parties met to negotiate some of the technical details of the Kyoto Protocol. Of key importance was the definition of a carbon sink, which is a natural mechanism that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Examples of carbon sinks are forests and phytoplankton in lakes and oceans. The definition of a carbon sink has implications for the emissions trading program. Other issues involved the regulations and operating structures in the emissions trading program. Many of these details were worked out in a meeting in Marrakech and are referred to as the Marrakech Accords.

After the U.S. presidential election in 2000, George W. Bush announced that the United States was not going to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because of the economic impacts it would have on the country. Instead, he announced that the U.S. had decided to pursue alternative measures for controlling of greenhouse gas emissions. The loss of the United States called the future of the Kyoto Protocol into question, because the United States was responsible for a significant portion—thirty-six percent—of the total
On February 15, 2005, environmentalists in Italy show their pleasure at the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol by marching in front of Romes Chigi government office. The protocol became effective February 16, 2005. On February 15, 2005, environmentalists in Italy show their pleasure at the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol by marching in front of Rome's Chigi government office. The protocol became effective February 16, 2005. AP Images greenhouse emissions in 1990. In order for the Kyoto Protocol to become enforceable all of the industrialized countries, including the entire European Union, Japan, and Russia, would have to ratify the agreement.

In 2002, COP VIII was held in New Delhi, India. The conference made clear that there was a growing concern in the international community regarding the responsibilities of developing and industrialized countries. In particular, the industrialized countries in the European Union felt that developing countries, in particular India and China, should be required to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the developing countries have called on the industrialized countries to provide aid to compensate for economic losses that would result from efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. The fact that the United States refused to support the Kyoto Protocol exacerbated the divisions between countries.

On November 18 2004, Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The sum of the emissions by signatories of the Protocol thus reached 62 percent. This surmounted the 55 percent threshold required for the Protocol to come into effect, which occurred on February 16, 2005. When the Protocol became binding, the eighty-four countries that had signed it became responsible for meeting the obligations for Page 323  |  Top of Articlereducing their greenhouse gas emissions as set out in the agreement.


Web sites

Greenpeace Canada. "A Brief History of the Kyoto Protocol." 〈〉 (accessed January 17, 2006). "The Kyoto Protocol and Global Warming." 〈〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 〈〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Fact Sheet on the Kyoto Protocol, October 1999." 〈〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Kyoto Protocol Introduction." 〈〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3456400123