Home > Background > Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and entered into force in February 2005. It is the world‘s first binding agreement under international law designed to slow the pace of climate change. Most industrialized countries (Annex I countries) committed themselves to a reduction of six major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluoro-carbons.

The Protocol calls for legally binding commitments of the developed countries to reduce, individually or jointly, emissions of 6 greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFC, PFC and SF6) by more than 5% in the period 2008 to 2012, below their 1990 level. The EU and its Member States agreed to a 8% reduction. Detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were set out at the 7th Conference of the Parties (in Marrakesh) and are described in the Marrakesh Accords adopted in 2001.

The Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005, after its ratification from 141 Parties including developed countries with a contribution of more than 55% to global CO2 emissions in 1990.

The Kyoto Protocol required the, at that time, 15 EU members to reduce their collective emissions by 8% compared with 1990 levels. For the EU to arrive at its reduction targets, a political agreement was reached in 1998 to share the burden unequally amongst Member States (burden sharing). This method takes into account national conditions, including current GHG emissions, the opportunities for reducing them, and the level of economic development.



The Conference of the Parties (COP) serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. This is referred to as the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP). The CMP meets annually during the same period as the COP. The functions of the CMP relating to the Protocol are similar to those carried out by the COP for the Convention.

Emission targets for industrialized country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are expressed as levels of allowed emissions, or “assigned amounts”, over the 2008-2012 commitment period. Such assigned amounts are denominated in tonnes (of CO2 equivalent emissions) known informally as “Kyoto units”.

The ability of Parties to add to their holdings of Kyoto units (e.g. through credits for CDM or LULUCF activities) or move units from one country to another (e.g. through emissions trading or JI projects) requires registry systems that can track the location of Kyoto units at all times.

Each registry will operate through a link established with the International transaction log put in place and administered by the UNFCCC secretariat. The ITL verifies registry transactions, in real time, to ensure they are consistent with rules agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. The ITL requires registries to terminate transactions they propose that are found to infringe upon the Kyoto rules.


(Data taken from UNFCCC, Green Evolution SA)