The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), aimed at fighting global warming. The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
The protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of July 2010, 191 states have signed and ratified the protocol.
Under the Protocol, 37 countries (“Annex I countries”) commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydro fluorocarbons and per fluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments.
Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping, but are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are death with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The benchmark 1990 emission levels were accepted by the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC (decision 2/CP.3) were the values of “global warming potential” calculated for the IPCC Second Assessment Report.
The Protocol allows for several “flexible mechanisms”, such as emissions trading, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation to allow Annex I countries to meet their GHG emission limitations by purchasing GHG emission reductions credits from elsewhere, through financial exchanges, projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I countries, from other Annex I countries, or from annex I countries with excess allowances.
Each Annex 1 country is required to submit an annual report of inventories of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from sources and removals from sinks under UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. These countries nominate a person (called a “designated national authority”) to create the manage its greenhouse gas inventory. Virtually all of the non-Annex I countries have also established a designated national authority to manage its Kyoto obligations, specifically the “CDM process” that determines which GHG projects they wish to propose for accreditation by the CDM Executive Board.