“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” This saying by Barbara Ward resonates with people around the globe who want to protect nature. 

Are we not willing to make Earth a place where the effects caused due to humans are not reflected? Is it such a difficult task? 

Scientists in 1997 from all over the world met in Kyoto and agreed, a binding for emission reduction as its primary target. This concern of the world about climate change initiated the Kyoto Protocol.

Kyoto Protocol mind map
Kyoto Protocol mind map | Image Credit – Dreamstime

In June 1992, 154 nations took part in the Earth Summit held in Rio De Janeiro. The concept to fight against human interference with the ecosystem United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was est Kyoto Protocol. Abolished, which dealt with the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. 

Kyoto Protocol Again, in December 1997, 192 nations agreed to extend the UNFCCC that confides developed nations to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) based on the fact that the Earth is warming and it is due to human-made CO2 emissions. 

All the nations except the US and Afghanistan have adopted the Protocol, whereas Canada withdrew from December 2011.

Table of Contents

Objectives of Kyoto protocol 

Red nations have no intention to sign where as green nations are a part of Kyoto protocol
Red nations have no intention to sign where as green nations are a part of Kyoto protocol | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Red, Yellow, Blue, and Gray nations have no intention to sign, have signed, signed but not ratified, and are undecided to the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol’s primary purpose was to limit anthropogenic GHG emissions in ways that reflected underlying national variations in GHG emissions, wealth, and ability to reduce emissions. 

The pact agrees to the basic concepts established in the UNFCCC. According to the treaty, Annex I Parties who have accepted it must have met their GHGs reduction requirements for the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (2008–2012) by 2012. The Protocol’s Annex B lists these emission reduction promises.

The Protocol sets a rolling commitment period mechanism for emission reductions. It established a timeframe for negotiations to develop carbon reduction commitments for a second commitment period, beginning in 2006. On December 31, 2012, the first period of emission reduction obligations ended.

“To avoid harmful anthropogenic interactions with the climate system by stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere,” according to the UNFCCC’s ultimate goal. 

Even if Annex I Parties accomplish their first-round commitments, significantly further emission reductions will be needed in the future to keep atmospheric GHG concentrations stable.

The Kyoto Protocol shares the Convention’s ultimate goal of stabilizing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will preclude harmful interference with the climate system. 

In pursuit of this goal, the Kyoto Protocol expands and strengthens several of the Convention’s existing commitments.

More specifically,  the GHG emissions were committed to reducing by 5.2% on average below aggregate emission level by the Annex B countries in 1990 emission levels during the commitment period 2008-2012 (UNFCCC 1997). 

The agreement, however, will not take effect until two requirements are met (the so-called double-trigger): To begin, national parliaments in at least 55 of the Convention’s Parties must approve the treaty. 

Second, among ratifying Parties, industrialized countries must contribute to at least 55 percent of global CO2 emissions in 1990.

The Kyoto Protocol applied to the seven greenhouse gasses mentioned in Annex A: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). During the Doha Round, nitrogen trifluoride was included for the second compliance period.  

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from combustion of Annex1 Kyoto Protocol parties between 1990 & 2009.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from combustion of Annex1 Kyoto Protocol parties between 1990 & 2009. | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Key concepts of Kyoto Protocol

1. Annex I: Binding commitments

The Protocol’s key characteristic is that it established legally binding obligations for Annex I Parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Berlin Mandate made the promises, which was a component of the UNFCCC talks that led up to the Protocol.

2. Implementation

Annex I Parties are obligated to prepare policies and actions for greenhouse gas reduction in their nations to satisfy the Protocol’s objectives. 

They must also boost the absorption of these gasses and use all available mechanisms, such as joint implementation, the clean development mechanism, and emissions trading, to be rewarded with credits that will allow them to emit additional greenhouse gasses at home.

3. Climate policy 

The Kyoto protocol puts the UNFCCC into action by committing industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce GHG emissions by agreed-upon individual targets.

First Stage

The first stage is for climate policy to take a precautionary approach to long-term stability targets until more scientific information on climate change becomes available. 

Given that the stability problem is a GHG budget allocation problem, there are a variety of strategies to attain the same stabilization goal. Because

  1. technological development will likely deliver cheaper low-carbon technologies in the future, 
  2. reallocation of the current capital stock may cause high adjustment costs, and 
  3. A low-interest rate means that the present value of a future economic burden on current 

generations decrease as time passes; conventional cost-effective considerations would suggest relatively low near-term reductions and offset high long-term decreases.

These arguments, however, should not be interpreted to support a blanket “do nothing” or “wait and see” strategy. 

Economic systems that produce GHG emissions have a lot of inertia. This scenario indicates that switching from one emission path to another will incur expenses. 

The socioeconomic inertia shows that “delay in abatement measures may be costly” when uncertainty about the long-term ideal concentration ceiling is considered.

Second Stage

Second, emission abatement implementation guidelines should meet essential efficiency criteria. Most crucially, this includes using market-based devices to harmonize marginal abatement costs across space. 

To be efficient in global GHG externality, broad involvement is required, contingent on profitability and fairness.

Third Stage

Third, climate policy must address distributional concerns, which have previously dominated climate policy. 

These concerns entail (complicated) negotiations on competing equity criteria, such as responsibility (in terms of GHG emission), ability-to-pay (wealthier nations should lead the response), and benefit-sharing. To deter free-riding, all nations should implement credible consequences.

4. Cost-benefit analysis 

Instead of depending on the usual command and control strategy, the Kyoto Protocol allows for numerous creative, theoretically cost-effective approaches to meeting emission reduction quotas.

Kyoto contains several novel techniques to tackle global climate change that encourage flexibility and, as a result, lower overall costs. 

On the other hand, the Protocol states many of these emission reduction measures in very general terms and restricts the use of these alternative ways.

Some Kyoto supporters claim that the developed countries, particularly the United States and Europe, pioneered fossil fuels during industrialization, resulting in the current global warming crisis.

Furthermore, developed countries account for only 20% of the global population but produce 60% CO2 emissions. 

Even more alarming, the United States accounts for 30% of global CO2 emissions despite having only 5% of the world’s population.

5. Integration and Marketing mechanism 

By establishing a climate change adaptation fund, we can reduce the adverse effects on developing countries. 

Accounting, reporting, and review are necessary to ensure the Protocol’s integrity. They created a Compliance Committee to ensure that the Protocol’s promises are followed. 

To implement and achieve the target marketing mechanism was also introduced in the Kyoto Protocol. 

6. International Emission Trading 

A country is given a limit to emit greenhouse gas. Nations are supposed to keep their emissions under that limit. Let’s consider two countries, A and B. If country A crosses its emission limit, country B is way below its target emission. 

Then country A can buy that limit from country B. This cycle is called emission trading. In other words, this system controls pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving emission reductions.

7. Clean Development Mechanism 

For developed countries, it is too difficult to limit its emission, so they help the developing countries reduce greenhouse gas from the environment. 

Various nations registered numerous clean development projects for billions of tons of CO2 reduction. The deductions are mainly through energy efficiency, fuel switching, alternate energy commercialization. 

8. Joint implementation

Joint implementation is a Kyoto Protocol scheme that allows industrialized countries to satisfy a portion of their necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by paying for projects that lower emissions in other industrialized countries.  

Giving up or amend

On the other hand, climate change deniers criticize the Kyoto Protocol’s goals, dismissing solid scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. 

According to one famous researcher  Rousseau’s concept of the social contract, which is an implicit agreement among society’s members to coordinate efforts for the greater good. 

The climate change denial movement hinders efforts to reach global climate change accords as a collective international community.

Achieving an effective global climate change strategy is complex, but specific fundamental criteria exist. 

Global climate change needs a robust international response. Because the stratosphere is a public asset, no country will choose a globally optimal policy on its own. 

As a result, global climate change necessitates enforced, legally binding international cooperation. Both developed and developing countries should play active and essential roles.

(Last Updated on May 22, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Ranjana Regmi is a highly energetic and responsible graduate with a master’s degree in Environment Science. She has a sound academic and professional record of exploring the world of climate change and its dynamics related to vegetation and wildlife. She has developed analytical skills during a few years of work exposure and scientific coherence. She is undoubtedly a bright star for ecosystem preservation with an immense empathy towards biodiversity.