The Kyoto Protocol lives on: Second commitment period secured in last
minutes of Durban
The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, a prerequisite for COP17’s success in Durban, was
secured through 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 decision 2/CMP.7 (229 kB) ,
which defined the rules relating to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and
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
Outstanding KP issues to be resolved in 2012 before adoption at CMP
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
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
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 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.