As Kyoto Protocol turns 10, UN says 'first critical step' must trigger new 2015 emissions-curbing deal

Photo: UNEP

16 February 2015 – As momentum builds towards negotiations in Paris next year on a universal climate agreement, the United Nations announced today that early analysis shows that countries with targets under the landmark Kyoto Protocol – the world's first emission reduction treaty – have collectively exceeded their original ambition.

According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), those countries who took on targets under the treaty have reduced their emissions by over 20 per cent – well in excess of the 5 per cent target they aimed to meet.

The achievement, which comes as the world today marks the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, underlines what can be achieved via international cooperative action.

The news also comes as countries meeting in Geneva last week produced negotiating text for a successor climate change agreement that is excepted to be approved later this year in Paris – the next key chapter in humanity's quest to chart a defining path to keep the world and its people under a 2 degree C temperature rise.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC said: “The Kyoto Protocol was a remarkable achievement in many ways. It not only underscored the scientific reality that greenhouse gas emissions need to fall. But it also put in place pioneering concepts, flexible options, practical solutions and procedures for accountability that we often take for granted today”.

Continuing, Ms. Figueres said she is convinced that without the treaty and its various mechanisms “we would not be as far forward as we are today in respect to, for example, the growing penetration of renewable energies.” The Kyoto Protocol's vision also helped spawn new and innovative initiatives like supporting developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, she added.

“The Kyoto Protocol was the first critical step – today we must take further and more far reaching action towards a truly sustainable future for seven billion, rising to over nine billion, people. Despite our best efforts, greenhouse gases continue to rise, threatening sustainable development and putting millions if not billions of people at risk over the coming decades, “said Ms. Figueres.

As such, the Paris agreement of December 2015 would bring all nations into common cause in support of men, women and children everywhere.

“It needs to be a long term, paradigm shift that reflects today's scientific reality – one that speaks to the urgency of swiftly peaking global greenhouse gas emissions, triggering a deep de-carbonization of the global economy and achieving climate neutrality in the second half of the century,” she added.

The Protocol, an international agreement under the UNFCCC, was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005.

During its first commitment period, from 2008 to 2012, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community committed to take a leading role in climate action by reducing their emissions to an average of just over five percent against 1990 levels.

The UNFCCC secretariat is expected to complete final accounting for the first phase later this year or early next year.

“Paris will not solve climate change at a pen stroke. But similarly it must trigger a world-wide over-achievement and a clear sense of direction that can restore the natural balance of emissions on planet Earth,” said Ms. Figueres.


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