The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Kyoto, Japan on Dec. 11, 1997. The Protocol is an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions worldwide. It became the legally binding Kyoto Treaty on Feb. 16, 2005.
Developed countries were required to reduce their GHG emissions below levels specified for each of them. These targets must be met within a five-year time frame between 2008 and 2012, and add up to a total cut in GHG emissions of at least 5% against the baseline of 1990. Review and enforcement of these commitments are carried out by United Nations-based bodies.
A heavier burden is placed upon developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” There are two main reasons for this. First, those countries can more easily pay the cost of cutting emissions. Second, developed countries have historically contributed more to the problem by emitting larger amounts of GHGs per person than in developing countries.
The aim of the convention is to stabilise atmospheric levels of greenhouse gas concentration in order to prevent man-made interference with the climate, and the signatory nations to the Convention commit themselves to report national greenhouse gas inventories every year, and to review the progress on their regional greenhouse gas abatement programmes. Other commitments are technological assistance to developing countries that are especially vulnerable to climate change and participation in the meetings of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention.
The 41 industrialised countries listed in the Annex I of the Convention are recommended to take emissions reductions domestically, while developing countries are exempted from immediate emission reduction measures, though may participate on a voluntary basis. All parties to the treaty agreed to mitigate climate change by, for example, promoting climate-friendly technologies.