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The Kyoto Protocol

Flexible ways of meeting emission targets

To achieve their targets, Annex I Parties must put in place domestic policies and measures. To compensate for the sting of "binding targets," as they are called, the Protocol offers countries flexibility in how they meet their targets.

Parties may offset their emissions, for example, by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) removed from the atmosphere by so-called carbon "sinks" through activities such as reforestation.  The Protocol has also set up three innovative flexibility mechanisms: The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and Emissions Trading. (See sub-chapter on Mechanisms.)

Monitoring a complex treaty

The Kyoto Protocol is a complex agreement that requires strict monitoring to  be effective.

Parties must keep a national registry to track and record transactions under the mechanisms. The secretariat keeps an independent transaction log to verify that transactions are consistent with the rules of the Protocol. (See sub-chapter on Registry.)

Annex I Parties must submit annual emission inventories and regular national communications under the Protocol, both of which are subject to in-depth review by expert review teams. To ensure that accurate records are maintained, the secretariat publishes an annual compilation and accounting report of each Party's emissions and transactions over the year. (See sub-chapter on Reporting.)

The Protocol's compliance system, agreed as part of the Marrakesh Accords, gives "teeth" to its commitments. It consists of a Compliance Committee made up of two branches: a facilitative branch and an enforcement branch. As their names suggest, the facilitative branch aims to provide advice and assistance to Parties, including "early warning" that a Party may be in danger of not complying, whereas the enforcement branch can impose certain consequences on Parties not meeting their commitments. (See sub-chapter on Compliance.)


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Text of the Kyoto Protocol

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Next Steps
Ad Hoc Working Group, AWG