Kyoto Protocol

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 in Kyoto Japan, was the primary mechanism through which the global community took steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

NOTE: The Kyoto Protocol has been superseded by the Paris Agreement that was achieved in December 2015.

The Kyoto Protocol entered into force in February 2005, and obliged industrialized countries that have ratified the accord to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases (GHG), the major contributors being carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The Kyoto Protocol was a significant first step. It was the most far-reaching environmental agreement ever adopted. The agreement was a sign that the international community was willing to acknowledge and take action against climate change.

Under the Protocol, each industrialized country set a binding greenhouse gas emission target to reduce emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. These targets are different for each country. Canada set a 6% reduction goal. Because we have allowed emissions to increase since 1990, Canada is now required to reduce emissions by over 30% below today’s levels (1).

Although the Government of Manitoba couldn’t be a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, on June 12, 2008 the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act was passed by the Manitoba legislature committing the province to meeting its Kyoto target of 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. (2)

Key concepts

Here are some key concepts involved in the Kyoto Protocol:

  • Annex 1 and Non Annex Countries – Governments are separated into two general categories: developed countries, referred to as Annex 1 countries (who have accepted greenhouse gas emission reduction obligations and must submit an annual greenhouse gas inventory) and developing countries, referred to as Non Annex 1 countries (who have no greenhouse gas emission reduction obligations but may participate in the Clean Development Mechanism).
  • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – The CDM is an arrangement under the Kyoto Protocol allowing industrialized countries with a greenhouse gas reduction commitment (Annex 1 countries) to invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries.
  • Joint Implementation (JI) – Joint implementation is a programme under the Kyoto Protocol that allows industrialized countries to meet part of their required cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by paying for projects that reduce emissions in other industrialized countries.
  • Carbon trading – Carbon (or Emission) trading is a system that controls pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving emission reductions. To simplify it, emitters are given a cap on emissions, if that cap is exceeded they must buy credits and if they emit less then their allowance they can sell credits. In essence, the buyer is being fined for polluting and the seller is being rewarded. For more on this topic, visit the Cap & Trade area of our website.
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