The carbon emission policies of the Kyoto Protocol and the Doha Amendment

carbon emission policies of Kyoto protocol

The carbon emission policies of the Kyoto protocol and the Doha amendment are important in understanding the progression of carbon policies worldwide.

Kyoto protocol

The Kyoto protocol is an addendum to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international environmental treaty whose goal is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Until now, 192 Parties participated in the Kyoto protocol, including Japan, Australia, China, India, Russia, EU countries, etc. The Kyoto protocol was signed in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and became international law on February 16, 2005. On the other hand, there are outliers, the countries that didn’t sign the international agreement. The United States of America, the biggest economy on the planet, did not undertake the agreement, as the US Senate refused to ratify it, mainly due to concerns including the negative impact of the agreement on the US economy.

This protocol highlights the different responsibilities between developing and developed nations. It acknowledges that industrialized nations are mostly to blame for the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, which are the product of more than 150 years of industrial activity. The idea of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities”, binds those countries and sets a heavier burden on them. It required 37 developed nations and the EU to reduce their GHG emissions. Over 100 developing countries, including China and India, were excused entirely from the Kyoto protocol and were invited to participate freely.

carbon emission policies of the Doha Amendment
The two main annexes

The parties of the treaty committed to two main annexes: “Annex I” contained the developed countries, while “Non-Annex I” contained the growing countries. While the emissions limitations had been adhered to by developed countries, developing nations participated in the implementation of projects, aiming to reduce their emissions. The reward for the implementation of such projects was carbon credits. They could possibly trade or sell them to developed nations, permitting them to have a greater maximum amount of carbon emissions throughout that time period. Although carbon credits gave developing countries a strong incentive, still there is no obligation for the growing countries to act under the agreement. The agreement of decreasing emissions under the scheme would entail significant expenditures that they would be either unable or unwilling to bear.

Market mechanisms

The evolution of flexible market mechanisms based on the trading of emission permits was a key component of the Kyoto protocol. Countries must accomplish their objectives largely through national initiatives under the protocol. However, the protocol provides them with an extra means of meeting their objectives through market-based mechanisms. The international agreement established thorough monitoring, evaluation, and verification system, as well as a compliance mechanism, to ensure transparency and hold parties accountable. Countries’ actual emissions must be monitored, and full records of exchanges must be kept, according to the protocol.

The protocol’s first commitment period was from 2008 until 2012. During the first term of the protocol, member nations agreed to cut emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels. The EU countries that were 15 at that time, went beyond that and achieved a reduction of 8% below 1990 levels. On December 8, 2012, the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was agreed upon in Doha, Qatar, for a second commitment period beginning in 2013 and extending through 2020. The amendment went into force on December 31, 2020, when 147 Parties agreed on their 144 instruments of acceptance.

The Doha Amendment

The Doha Amendment, which took place in Doha (Qatar) in 2012 establishes the Kyoto Protocol’s 2013-2020 second commitment period. As a result of 47 Parties depositing their instrument of acceptance, the 144-instrument-of-acceptance threshold for the Doha Amendment’s entry into force was met. The amendment went into effect on December 31, 2020.

The emission reduction commitments of participating developed countries and economies in transition (EITs) become legally obligatory once they enter into force. The amendment includes the Annex I parties to the Kyoto Protocol, the so-called “developed countries”, and their agreement to accept pledges for a second commitment term running from January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2020. In addition, it includes amendments to various Kyoto Protocol paragraphs that particularly highlighted issues from the first commitment period and there was a need to modify them for the second period. Parties agreed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18% below 1990 levels in the eight years period from 2013 to 2020 during the second commitment period; however, the composition of Parties in the second commitment period differs from the first.

The entrance into force of the Doha Amendment is “essential for the rigorous and successful execution of the second commitment period.” Its entrance into effect also implies that “accounting for the Kyoto Protocol’s second phase may proceed as planned, and the Kyoto Protocol’s compliance committee can fully fulfill its legal responsibilities.” (as UNFCCC press release notes)


Because the only EU Member States, other European nations, and Australia have made pledges, the second commitment period affects just 14 percent of world emissions. The United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and other emerging countries do not. Countries that did not make Kyoto Protocol obligations have made voluntary promises for climate action through 2020. Ratification of the Doha Amendment by the EU and its Member States entails no new obligations beyond those outlined in the 2009 climate and energy package: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. In May 2014, the EU introduced laws governing the technical execution of the Doha Amendment.

Written by our Energy Enthusiast
Pavlos Hitiris

Pavlos Hitiris Author

Pavlos has a Bachelor in International and European Studies from the Panteion University of Athens. He has worked successfully at a Law Firm in Kolonaki, Athens. Currently, he is working at a Solution Provider/System Integrator Company in Athens. He is a postgraduate student of the MSc in Energy: Strategy, Law, and Economics at the University of Piraeus in the faculty of International and European Studies. Speaks Greek, English, and German. Keen on Middle East culture and history.

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