From Kyoto to Copenhagen - how we got there

After having agreed the UNFCCC, governments knew that their aspirations had to be translated into concrete actions by setting real reduction targets for emissions. At COP1 in 1995 in Berlin, Germany, they decided on a new round of negotiations for such a binding agreement (the ‘Berlin Mandate’).

In 1997, at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, the Parties to the UNFCCC reached an agreement on what is now known as the Kyoto Protocol.

Since then over 160 countries (view map) have ratified the Protocol (ratification means full integration into national law), and the Protocol is fully operational. 35 industrialised countries (plus the EU) have absolute and binding commitments to reduce their emissions.

The first commitment period

The current first period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012 and negotiations for a second period started at the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in December 2005 in Montreal (with another incredible acronym - MOP1 – and in parallel with the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC - COP11).

The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005. But the road to Kyoto was more than bumpy:
  • After the agreement on the Kyoto Protocol, considerable work went into a detailed rule book, including issues such as compliance (penalties for countries which do not achieve their targets); carbon sinks (forests and farmland which could be used to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) naturally, and artificial carbon storage); and the workings of the so-called flexible mechanisms. Only at COP7 in Marrakesh, Morocco, could the rule book be finalised.
  • The United States, having signed the Kyoto Protocol under President Clinton but not having ratified it, officially withdrew from the process in early 2000 under incoming President Bush.
  • The entering-into-force of the Protocol required ratification by at least 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Annex I Parties (the list of 35 industrialised countries plus the EU) which accounted in total for at least 55% of the total CO2 emissions in1990. This proved difficult to achieve after the United States withdrawal – but in Autumn 2004, Russia ratified and opened the way for the Protocol to become operational.

	© WWF / Fritz Pölking
The sun has not set on the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only international treaty to halt climate change.
© WWF / Fritz Pölking

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