The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty created at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 3 to 14, 1992.

The treaty sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms, essentially making the treaty legally non-binding. However, the treaty provides for updates or protocols, such as the Kyoto Protocol, that set mandatory emission limits. In short, the Convention encourages industrialized countries to stabilize GHG emissions, whereas, the Kyoto Protocol commits them to do so.

The primary objective of the Kyoto Protocol is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions .These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh in 2001, and are called the “Marrakesh Accords.”

Currently, there are 193 Parties that have signed the Kyoto Protocol. The United States has signed the Kyoto Protocol but does not have plans to ratify it. The United States’ position is that developing countries should curb emissions and agree to international verification in addition to developed countries doing so.

The Kyoto Protocol is generally seen as an important first step towards a global emission reduction regime that will stabilize GHG emissions and provide the essential architecture for any future international agreement on climate change.

By the Kyoto Protocol’s end of the first commitment period in 2012, a new international framework needs to have been negotiated and ratified to prevent a gap between commitment periods. These negotiations will likely take place at the annual Conference of the Parties, 2010 was held in Cancun, Mexico and 2011 will be held in Durban, South Africa.

For more information, please visit: