What you need to know about Kyoto Protocol

By Philaso G. Kaping | Last Updated: Nov 27, 2012, 08:52 AM IST

Philaso Kaping

As delegates from nearly 200 countries descend on Doha in Qatar, starting from 26 December till 7 December for the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the focus would be on the extension of Kyoto protocol which expires at the end of the year. Canada pulled out from the treaty in 2011 whereas Japan, New Zealand and Russia have indicated that they would not commit further. Australia has said it is ready to sign up for the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol.

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

Recognising the need for an urgent action plan to slow the rate of climate change as the result of destructive human activities, world leaders agreed on comprehensive road map which was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997. This treaty came to be known as Kyoto Protocol and was brought into force on 16 February 2005.

The most important task was to reduce emission and stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” the Kyoto Protocol legally binds industrialised countries to meet the target of emission reduction at an average of 5.2 per cent for the period 2008-2012. Developing nations are not required to reduce emission levels.

Thirty seven industrialised countries and the European community signed and ratified the protocol. The United States is the sole signatory not to have ratified the same.

Mechanisms for emission reduction

The Kyoto protocol provided three market mechanisms for meeting emission reduction targets, such as Emissions trading, Clean development mechanism and Joint implementation.

Under the Emissions trading mechanism, countries hold allowances or carbon credits equivalent to their emissions of which the excess or unused capacity can be sold to countries that have exceeded their targets.

Clean development mechanism allows Annex 1 countries i.e developed countries and economies in transition to fund clean technology projects in developing countries for which they earn carbon credits or saleable certified emission reduction credits.

The Joint Implementation scheme facilitates emission reduction among Annex 1 countries in a cost-effective way through joint efforts.

Bone of contention

The 2012 Durban summit resulted in the agreement to strike a binding global climate deal by 2015. But a bone of contention remains between the developing and the rich nations. The BASIC countries reiterated their stand that rich and developing nations should have different degrees of responsibility to cut emissions. But the developed nations want these differentiated responsibilities to end as the BASIC countries are some of the world’s major polluters.