The Kyoto Protocol

At the first meeting after its entry into force held in Berlin in 1995, the Parties to the Climate Convention (i.e. all the countries that had ratified it) decided that they needed to negotiate a more specific and quantified agreement than the Convention on its own provided. Because of the principle in the Convention that industrialised countries should take the lead, a Protocol was formulated that required commitments from these countries (known as Annex I countries) for specific quantitative reductions in emissions (listed in Table 10.1) from their level in 1990 to their average from 2008-12, called the first commitment period. The Protocol also required that a second commitment period be defined. Negotiations began at the Montreal meeting in late 2005 with the aim of completing arrangements in time for a smooth transition between the first and second periods. The Protocol carries inbuilt mechanisms that could lead to stronger action and be expanded over time to include developing countries.

The basic structure of the Protocol and the commitments required by different countries were agreed at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Kyoto in November 1997. But the Protocol is a highly complex agreement and over the next three years intense negotiations followed regarding the details - the range of gases covered, the basis for comparing them and the rules for monitoring, reporting and compliance. Further the Protocol incorporates a range of mechanisms (see box below) of a kind that are unprecedented in an international treaty and that enable countries to offset their domestic emission obligations against the absorption of emissions by 'sinks' (e.g. through forestation - see next section) or by investment in or trading with other countries where it might be cheaper to limit emissions.

The emissions controlled by the Protocol are from six greenhouse gases (Table 10.2 and Figure 10.1) that can be converted into an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent through the use of their global warming potentials (GWPs) which were introduced in Chapter 3, page 63.

The details of the Protocol were finally agreed at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Marrakesh in October-November 2001. Much of the detailed discussion related to the inclusion of carbon sinks, especially from forests and from land-use change. Because of the large uncertainties regarding the magnitude of such sinks, considerable doubts were expressed regarding their inclusion in the Protocol arrangements. However, it was agreed that they should be included in a limited way and detailed regulations were agreed concerning the inclusion of afforestation, reforestation and deforestation activities and certain kinds of land-use change. Capping arrangements were also set up that limit the extent to which removals of carbon dioxide from these activities are allowed to offset emissions elsewhere.1

"Before the Marrakesh meeting in 2001 the United States had announced its withdrawal from the Protocol. Despite this by the end of 2003, 120 countries had ratified the Protocol and the Annex I countries that had ratified represented 44% of Annex I country emissions. For the Protocol to come

Table 10.1 Emissions targets (1990a-2008/2012) for greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol


Target (%)

EU-15b, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia,


Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland



Canada, Hungary, Japan, Poland




New Zealand, Russian Federation, Ukraine








a Some economies in transition (EIT) countries have a baseline other than 1990. b The 15 countries of the European Union have agreed an average reduction; changes for individual countries vary from -28% for Luxembourg, -21% for Denmark and Germany to +25% for Greece and +27% for Portugal.

c The USA has not ratified the Protocol. Australia did not ratify until March 2008.

Table 10.2 Greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol and their global warming potentials (GWPs) on a mass basis relative to carbon dioxide and for a time horizon of 100 years

Table 10.2 Greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol and their global warming potentials (GWPs) on a mass basis relative to carbon dioxide and for a time horizon of 100 years

Greenhouse gas Global warming potential (GWP)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) Methane (CH4) Nitrous oxide (N2O) Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

25 298

from 12 to 12 000a from 5000 to 12 000a 22 200

a Range of values for different HFCs: for more information about HFCs see Moomaw, W. R., Moreira, J. R. et al., in Metz et al. (eds.) Climate Change 2001: Mitigation, Chapter 3 and its appendix.





CO2 (deforestation, decay of biomass, etc.) 17.3%

CO2 (deforestation, decay of biomass, etc.) 17.3%

CO2 fossil fuel use 56.6%

CO2 fossil fuel use 56.6%

Waste and wastewater 2.8%



CO2 from fossil fuel use and other sources CO2 from deforestation, decay and peat CH4 from agriculture, waste and energy

N2O from agriculture and others F-gases

Waste and wastewater 2.8%

Residential and commercial buildings 7.9%

Figure 10.1 (a) Global annual emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases from 1970 to 2004, in terms of Gt CO2e per year (includes CO2, CH4, N20, HFCs, PFCs and SF6 weighted by their 100-year horizon global warming potentials - see Chapter 3, page 63). (b) Share of different anthropogenic greenhouse gases in total emissions in 2004 in terms of CO2e. (c) Share of different sectors in total anthropogenic emissions in 2004 in terms of CO2e (forestry includes deforestation). Buildings and Industry sectors do not include electricity use which is aggregated under Energy supply. (Figure 11.2 provides proportional information under end use).




into force 55 countries had to ratify together with sufficient Annex I countries to represent 55% of Annex I country emissions. With the ratification by Russia towards the end of 2004, the Protocol finally came into force on 16 February 2005.

Concern has often been expressed about the likely cost of implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Cost studies have been carried out using a number of international energy-economic models. For nine such studies, the range of values in impacts on the gross domestic product (GDP) of participating countries is as follows.2 In the absence of emissions trading (see box), estimated reductions in projected GDP in the year 2010 are between 0.2% and 2% compared with a base case with no implementation of the Protocol. With emissions trading between Annex I countries, the estimated reductions in GDP are between 0.1% and 1.1%. If emissions trading with all countries is assumed through ideal CDM (see box) implementation, the estimated reductions in GDP are substantially less - between 0.01% and 0.7%. Although there are differences between countries, most of the large range in the results is due to differences in the models

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