2012 emission targets and "flexible mechanisms"

2012 emission targets and "flexible mechanisms"

    • 39 of the 40 Annex I countries have ratified the Protocol. Of these 34 have committed themselves to a reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by them to targets that are set in relation to their 1990 emission levels, in accordance with Annex B of the Protocol.

    • The targets apply to the four greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, and two groups of gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. The six GHG are translated into CO2 equivalents in determining reductions in emissions.

    • These reduction targets are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are dealt with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.Under the Protocol, Annex I countries have committed themselves to national or joint reduction targets, (formally called "quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives"- Article 4.1) that range from a joint reduction of 8% for the European Union and others, to 7% for the United States (non-binding as the US is not a signatory), 6% for Japan and 0% for Russia. The treaty permits emission increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland. Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping.

    • Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol, their 2012 commitments (% of 1990) and 1990 emission levels (% of all Annex I countries)
    Australia – 108% (2.1% of 1990 emissions)
    Austria – 92% (0.4%)
    Belarus – 95% (subject to acceptance by other parties)
    Belgium – 92% (0.8%)
    Bulgaria – 92% (0.6%)
    Canada – 94% (3.33%)
    Croatia – 95%
    Czech Republic – 92% (1.24%)
    Denmark – 92% (0.4%)
    Estonia – 92% (0.28%)

    Finland – 92% (0.4%)
    France – 92% (2.7%)
    Germany – 92% (7.4%)
    Greece – 92% (0.6%)
    Hungary – 94% (0.52%)
    Iceland – 110% (0.02%)
    Ireland – 92% (0.2%)
    Italy – 92% (3.1%)
    Japan – 94% (8.55%)
    Latvia – 92% (0.17%)

    Liechtenstein – (0.0015%) 92%
    Lithuania – 92%
    Luxembourg – 92% (0.1%)
    Monaco – 92% (0.0015%)
    Netherlands – 92% (1.2%)
    New Zealand – 100% (0.19%)
    Norway – 99% (0.26%)
    Poland – 94% (3.02%)
    Portugal – 92% (0.3%)
    Romania – 92% (1.24%)

    Russian Federation – 100% (17.4%)
    Slovakia – 92% (0.42%)
    Slovenia – 92% Spain – 92% (1.9%)
    Sweden – 92% (0.4%)
    Switzerland – 92% (0.32%)
    Ukraine – 100%
    United Kingdom – 92% (4.3%)
    United States of America – 93% (36.1%) (non-party)

    • Annex I countries can achieve their targets by allocating reduced annual allowances to major operators within their borders, or by allowing these operators to exceed their allocations by offsetting any excess through a mechanism that is agreed by all the parties to the UNFCCC, such as by buying emission allowances from other operators which have excess emissions credits. 38 of the 39 Annex I countries have agreed to cap their emissions in this way, two others are required to do so under their conditions of accession into the EU, and one more (Belarus) is seeking to become an Annex I country.

    • The Protocol provides for several "flexible mechanisms" which enable Annex I countries to meet their GHG emission targets by acquiring GHG emission reductions credits. The credits are acquired by an Annex I country financing projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I countries or other Annex I countries, or by purchasing credits from Annex I countries with excess credits. The flexible mechanisms are emissions trading, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation.

    • In practice this means that non-Annex I countries have no GHG emission restrictions, but have financial incentives to develop GHG emission reduction projects to receive "carbon credits" that can then be sold to Annex I countries, encouraging sustainable development.

    • In addition, the flexible mechanisms allow annex I countries with efficient, low GHG-emitting industries, and high prevailing environmental standards to purchase carbon credits on the world market instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions domestically. Annex I countries typically will want to acquire carbon credits as cheaply as possible, while non-Annex I countries want to maximize the value of carbon credits generated from their domestic greenhouse gas projects.

    Details of the agreement

    According to a press release from the United Nations Environment Programme
    • "After 10 days of tough negotiations, ministers and other high-level officials from 160 countries reached agreement this morning on a legally binding Protocol under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2%.

    • The agreement aims to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases by 2008–12, calculated as an average over these five years. Cuts in the three most important gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) – will be measured against a base year of 1990. Cuts in three long-lived industrial gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) – can be measured against either a 1990 or 1995 baseline."

    • National limitations range from 8% reductions for the European Union and others, to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.

    • The agreement supplements the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which did not set any limitations or enforcement mechanisms. All parties to UNFCCC can sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol, while non-parties to UNFCCC cannot.

    • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 3) in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Most provisions of the Kyoto Protocol apply to developed countries, listed in Annex I to UNFCCC.National emission targets exclude international aviation and shipping.

    Common but differentiated responsibility
    UNFCCC adopts a principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." The parties agreed that:
      • The largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases originated in developed countries;
      • Per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low;
      • The share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet social and development needs.

    • China, India and other developing countries were not included in any numerical limitation of the Kyoto Protocol, because they were not main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions in the pre-treaty industrialization period. China has since become the largest greenhouse gas emitter.

    • However, even without responsibility under the Kyoto target, developing countries are also committed to share the common responsibility of all countries to reduce emissions.The protocol defines a mechanism of "compliance" as a "monitoring compliance with the commitments and penalties for non-compliance."

    Financial commitments

    • The Protocol also reaffirms the principle that developed countries have to pay billions of dollars, and supply technology to other countries for climate-related studies and projects. The principle was originally agreed in UNFCCC.

Last modified: Friday, 30 March 2012, 4:47 PM