Introduction | Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol compliance mechanism is intended to increase the Protocol’s respect for the environment, uphold the legitimacy of the carbon market, and guarantee that the Parties’ accounting is transparent. Its goal is to make it easier, more effective, and mandatory to uphold the Protocol’s promises. For an international environmental accord, it is one of the most extensive and stringent compliance mechanisms. The success of the Protocol’s implementation depends on a robust and efficient compliance system.

An overview of kyoto protocol - Sheet1
Environment_©Photographer Karsten Wurth Unsplash

A facilitative branch and an enforcement branch make up the Compliance Committee. As their names imply, the facilitative branch’s goal is to offer guidance and support to Parties to encourage compliance, whilst the enforcement branch is in charge of deciding the repercussions for Parties that don’t uphold their obligations. Ten people make up each branch, comprising one delegate from each of the five official UN regions, one from the small island developing states, two from both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties, and one from the small island developing states. The Committee also has a plenary meeting with representatives from both branches, and it is assisted in its work by a bureau made up of the chairs and vice-chairs of each branch. A three-quarters majority is required to make decisions in the plenary and the facilitative branch, while a double majority of Annex I and non-Annex I Parties is also necessary to make decisions in the enforcement branch.

The enforcement branch is subject to strict time constraints and comprehensive procedures. Parties dealing with the Compliance Committee can submit formal written arguments and request hearings at which they can express their positions and consult with experts. If a Party does not comply with the reporting requirements, it must create a compliance action plan. If it is determined that they do not fulfil the standards for using the mechanisms, their eligibility will be revoked. In each instance, the enforcement arm will declare the Party to be in non-compliance and announce the appropriate sanctions.

How does Kyoto work?

Establishing flexible market mechanisms based on trading emissions permits was one of the key components of the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol requires that nations largely use national initiatives to achieve their goals. As a result of three market-based mechanisms, the Protocol also provides them with an extra approach to fulfilling their goals which are:

  • International Emission Trading 
  • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
  • Joint implementation (JI)

The goal of these measures is to promote the reduction of GHGs to begin in areas where doing so will be most affordable, such as poor nations. Where emissions are cut doesn’t matter as long as the air is cleared of them. In addition to reducing GHG emissions and involving the private sector to keep them stable at a safe level, this also has the benefit of encouraging green investment in developing nations. It also creates the prospect of forgoing more outdated, filthier technology in favour of more modern, hygienic systems and infrastructure, which would be more cost-effective in the long run.

Challenges faced by them

The Kyoto Protocol was a significant diplomatic achievement, but it was not guaranteed to be a success. Reports published in the first two years following the treaty’s implementation suggested that most signatories would not achieve their emission limits. The world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, China, and the world’s second-largest emitter, the United States, were not required to abide by the agreement; therefore, even if the targets were met, some critics claimed that the environment would not ultimately gain significantly. Others argued that even with complete U.S. participation, more than the emission reductions mandated by the protocol would be required to alter world temperatures in the ensuing decades noticeably. While this was happening, several poor nations asserted that increase resilience to climatic unpredictability and change was equally as crucial as cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions.

What does the protocol cover?

The Kyoto Protocol covers the following six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride. The Protocol was ratified in 1997 but wasn’t enacted until 2005. With the passage of the Doha Amendment in 2012, the Kyoto Protocol was extended. The Protocol’s main focus was on requiring 37 developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. As rich countries were seen as primarily to blame for carbon emissions, it put the onus of emission reductions on them. Only voluntarily were developing countries required to comply. According to the treaty, the Protocol’s strategy in this area is based on the premise of “shared but differentiated duty and respective capabilities.” As part of it, a “carbon credit system” was established, under which countries may acquire credits by taking part in emission reduction initiatives carried out by other countries.

Green house gases_©World Meteorological organization

The problems with the protocol | Kyoto Protocol

However, the UN’s justification needs to be revised in light of the data regarding carbon emissions. For instance, developing countries, which are more prone to rely on coal as a source of energy and enact lenient environmental regulations, actually account for a large portion of the world’s overall carbon emissions. As of 2020, China and India are responsible for about 35% of all carbon emissions, compared to 4% for the developed countries of the UK, France, and Germany. But the obligations of the treaty, which only apply to 37 industrialised countries, were not imposed on China or India. The Kyoto Protocol has been criticised because, despite being free from all of its restrictions, 155 of its 192 signatory countries found it very simple to vote in favour of it.

What is the current state of the Kyoto protocol?

The Doha Amendment from 2015 brought the Protocol’s expiration date to 2020. However, it was quickly rendered irrelevant when the majority of the original ratifies of the Kyoto Protocol ratified the Paris Climate Accord. After first signing the Paris Climate Accord, the United States later withdrew from it. The Paris Climate Award received a lot of flak, just like the Kyoto Protocol that came before it. For instance, the Accord is criticised for requiring a country to submit a declaration that it intends to work on decreasing carbon emissions at some point in the future for it to be classified as fulfilling the accord’s terms.

On the other hand, it does not mandate that nations take immediate action to cut carbon emissions. Brazil serves as a prime illustration of how the agreement’s framework is inadequate. A statement it submitted stated that it would start working in 2040 to reduce carbon emissions by 2%. All that is necessary to confirm Brazil as a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord in good standing is that “do nothing” remark. The total amount of carbon emissions worldwide would only be slightly reduced even if every signatory nation achieved its declared carbon emissions reduction targets. According to former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, even if the United States completely removed all of its carbon emissions, “it still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the globe.”


Hetvi Jadia is an architecture student and a dancer, born and brought up in Surat, Gujarat. She started developing interest in writing since a long time.