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Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Kyoto, 1997
Core Treaties  
Treaties you might not expect  


  This Protocol has the same ultimate objective as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that will block dangerous human interference with the climate system. This level should be achieved in a time-frame that will

  • let ecosystems adapt naturally to climate change
  • guarantee that food production is not threatened
  • provide the means for economic development to advance in a sustainable way

  At the first UNFCCC Conference in Berlin in 1995, the countries party to the Convention reviewed the commitments by developed countries and decided that the commitment to return emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 was inadequate for achieving the Convention's long-term objective. The Conference adopted the "Berlin Mandate" and began a new round of negotiations to strengthen the commitments from developed countries. At the third Conference in Kyoto in 1997, the countries party to the Convention adopted the Kyoto Protocol.

Key Provisions

  In keeping with the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries that are party to the Convention commit to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 per cent from 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The targets cover the six main greenhouse gases

  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • methane (CH4)
  • nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)

and some activities in the land-use change and forestry sector that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (carbon "sinks"). Each developed country that is party to the Convention must make demonstrable progress in implementing its emission reduction commitments by 2005. Implementing the legally binding Protocol commitments promises to reverse the upward trend in emissions from developed countries.

  The Kyoto Protocol also creates three innovative mechanisms designed to help countries reduce the costs of meeting their emission targets:

  • joint implementation
  • emissions trading
  • the clean development mechanism

  The clean development mechanism also aims to promote sustainable development in developing countries. Countries that are party to the Convention are now working out the operational details of these mechanisms.

  The Protocol lays out the procedure for communicating and reviewing information. The national communications of developed countries that are party to the Convention must incorporate additional information needed to show that they are complying with their commitments under the Protocol (in keeping with guidelines to be developed). That information will be reviewed by expert review teams, according to guidelines established by the Conference of the Parties. This is the ruling body that will regularly review and promote effective implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

  Countries party to the Protocol must review it regularly in light of the best available scientific information on climate change and its impacts. A framework for a compliance system must be developed under the Protocol.

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