The Kyoto Protocol 

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and gets individual countries to commit to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This treaty is based on a scientific consensus that global warming is in fact occurring, and that it is extremely likely that human-made carbon dioxide emissions are what caused it and that global warming is expected to continue throughout the 21st century and beyond. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced a range of projections that say the the mean global temperature will rise over the 21st century between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius if human activities that cause greenhouse cases do not change.

The Kyoto Agreement was adopted in Kyoto, Japan in December of 1997 and entered into effect in February of 2005. There are currently 192 countries/states that are members of the Protocol.

The six greenhouse gasses that the Kyoto Protocol is primarily concerned with are, Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexaflouride (SF6).

The objective of the UNFCCC is to reduce the onset of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to, “a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”  It puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries because they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Kyoto Protocol is based on the idea that all countries and citizens of the world have different responsibilities based on different capabilities for combating climate change. It takes into consideration the differentiation of responsibilities that different countries have based on their economic development.

In 2012, a (second) commitment period was agreed to known as the Doha Amendment. This amendment binds 37 countries to targets. These countries include: Australia, Belarus, European Union (and its 28 member states), Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the Ukraine. Some countries that participated in the first round of targets did not put into legal force this second round of targets, and some countries have stated that they may withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

The United States is one of the countries that has not ratified and committed to second round targets.

At the beginning of 2019, only 124 countries of the 144 required for entry into force, had accepted the Doha Amendment.

During the yearly UNFCCC Climate Change Conferences, decisions about measures to be taken after the second commitment period ends in 2020, resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Even though the Paris Agreement deals with much of the same things as the Kyoto Protocol and its different commitment periods, this is a separate agreement rather than amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.

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