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The Kyoto Protocol lives on: Second commitment period secured in last minutes of Durban

Image   The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, a prerequisite for COP17’s success in Durban, was secured through pdf-icon decision 1/CMP.7 (271 kB) , adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP). This decision confirms the ongoing leadership of developed countries to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Decision 1/CMP.7 also means that the international response to climate change continues to fall within the remit of the current international legal system, and that there will a smooth transition between the first to the second commitment period with no regulatory gap. 

Another key outcome of Durban was the adoption of a package of decisions governing methodological and accounting rules for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (decisions 2-5/CMP.7).

Of particular importance were pdf-icon decision 2/CMP.7 (229 kB) , which defined the rules relating to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and pdf-icon decision 4/CMP.7 (155 kB) , which finalized the list of greenhouse gases to be covered in the second commitment period, the metrics to calculate the carbon dioxide equivalence of those gases, and other essential methodological issues.

A new greenhouse gas, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) was added to the ‘basket’ of six greenhouse gases covered by the Protocol in the first commitment period.

Progress on “numbers”

Work on “numbers” — that is, on targets for emission reductions in the second commitment period of the KP — also advanced in Durban. Decision 1/CMP.7 invited Annex I Parties to submit, by 1 May 2012, their quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROs).

QELROs are targets for industrialized countries to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions. They enable the measurement, on a common scale, of countries’ efforts to contain human impact on the global climate system.

Obligations to fulfill QELROs are a fundamental part of the Kyoto Protocol regime. After Annex I Parties submit their QELROs for the second commitment period, they will be discussed, with the aim of adopting the QELROs formally as part of the amendments to Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol, at CMP 8 in Qatar.

Outstanding KP issues to be resolved in 2012 before adoption at CMP 8

In addition to QELROs, Parties will have to work on three main outstanding issues in 2012.

The first is the length of the second commitment period. The start date will be 1 January 2013, but Parties did not agree on whether it should be five years, as per the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, or eight years, to cover the period to the end of 2020. The agreed length of the commitment period will become part of the textual amendments to some Articles of the Kyoto Protocol that have been revised but not yet finalized in Durban.

The second, the remaining issues relating to methodological and accounting rules, have been mostly passed on to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) to be worked on this year. The AWG-KP Update outlines the highlights of these, and more.

The third issue is the carry-over of assigned amount units (AAUs) from the first to the second commitment period. Parties will need to assess the implications of the carry-over on the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties in aggregate in the second commitment period, and to recommend appropriate actions.

These encouraging developments mean that the foundations for a second commitment period were firmly and decisively laid down in Durban.

Outside of the Kyoto Protocol, pledges to 2020 were also reaffirmed

All developed countries and 48 developing countries affirmed their mitigation intentions to 2020 in Durban. Together, these cover 80 percent of global emissions. Countries also agreed on how, and by when, both developed and developing countries would report on their mitigation efforts, and on the details of verifying these efforts.

As to the future: The Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action is born

In a major consensus-building effort led by the South African COP Presidency, the Durban Conference reached agreement on establishing the pdf-icon Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (123 kB) .

Its aim is to develop, by 2015, a new protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention, applicable to all Parties, that will come into effect and be implemented from 2020. Under the Durban Platform, a work plan would be launched to raise the level of mitigation ambition. This process would be informed by the first review of the global temperature goal of 2C, scheduled to be carried out from 2013-2015, as well as by the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.