Commitment periods

Stadtlandschaft von Kyoto mit Turm und Herbstbäumen in Japan

First commitment period (2008 to 2012)

At the Climate Change Conference in Kyoto, the Parties determined that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol would last from 2008 to 2012. The developed countries listed in Annex B to the Protocol committed themselves to a reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions of at least five percent compared with 1990 levels within this period. The European Union and its member states committed to an eight percent reduction in their emissions in the same timeframe. This overall target was broken down among the then 15 EU member states in an EU effort-sharing process. Germany committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent. According to calculations by the European Environment Agency, total emissions of the 15 EU member states decreased by an average 11.7 percent compared with 1990 levels during the period from 2008 to 2012. This means that the EU clearly exceeded its eight percent target. Germany also exceeded its target – it reduced its emissions by 23.6 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Officially, the Annex B countries listed in the Kyoto Protocol (excluding the US and Canada) complied with their commitments: emissions decreased by more than 20 percent compared with 1990 (see link to UNFCCC). The original reduction target of five percent was therefore exceeded. However, the reductions achieved are not exclusively a result of the Kyoto Protocol. Developments such as the collapse of industrial production in the former Eastern Bloc countries in the early 1990s and the 2008 global financial crisis also played a part in this decrease. The global trend looks very different: by 2010, global greenhouse gas emissions had risen by around 29 percent compared with 1990 levels. In addition to some of the developed countries, rapidly developing emerging economies such as China and India are particularly responsible for this as they have increasing problems managing the CO2 emissions of their booming economies.

Second commitment period (2013 to 2020)

After several years of negotiations, at the Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar (COP18/CMP8) the Parties agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2020. The Annex B countries committed to reducing their emissions by a total of 18 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. The European Union committed to a 20 percent reduction.

The most important changes at a glance:

  • As there is no doubt that the emission reduction targets for the second commitment period are insufficient, the Parties agreed on an "ambition mechanism", which allows for more stringent emission reduction targets during the commitment period without going through the lengthy process of amending the agreement. A developed country can propose an even more ambitious target for its own emissions, which will enter into force automatically once it has been adopted by the Conference of the Parties.
  • An amendment to Article 3.7 of the Kyoto Protocol also ensures that the generation of new surplus emission units will be reduced during the second commitment period. Emission units will be automatically cancelled if the emission budget of the second commitment period exceeds the average emissions of the first three years in the first commitment period (2008 to 2010) multiplied by eight.
  • In addition to this, surplus emission units from the first commitment period are transferred to a previous period surplus reserve (PPSR), which Annex B countries can only make use of if they miss their target for the second commitment period. This is to ensure that at the end of the second commitment period, surplus emission units from the first commitment period are not automatically transferred to a (highly unlikely) third commitment period or follow-up agreement.
  • New Zealand, Japan and Russia decided against participating in the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. The CO2 emissions of participating countries therefore total around 15 percent of global emissions.