International climate policy: the Kyoto Protocol

In 1997, the international community agreed binding reduction targets for participating industrial countries in the Kyoto Protocol. The first commitment period was from 2008 to 2012. Switzerland and certain other states made reduction commitments applicable up to 2020 in the context of the second commitment period.

After the Climate Change Convention was approved in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, it quickly became apparent that the provisions of the Convention were not sufficiently specific or binding to guarantee globally effective and internationally coordinated climate protection.

The target: reduction of greenhouse gases  

Accordingly, an additional agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, was passed in 1997. In the Protocol, the participant industrialised countries undertook to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012 - the "first commitment period" - by an average of 5.2% in comparison with 1990. Switzerland made the same formal commitment as the European Union: a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 8% between 2008 and 2012.

For industrialised members, this meant a reorganisation of their energy supply systems. This gave rise to opposition from business and political sectors, leading to further negotiations. Finally in 2001 in Marrakesh, agreement was reached on a procedure for  implementing the goals of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Protocol comes into force

On 16.2.2005, the Kyoto Protocol came in force. It had been ratified by more than 55 states, responsible in 1990 for at least 55 per cent the CO2 emissions made by industrialised countries (status of ratification by January 2023: 192 states).

In Switzerland, the Federal Assembly approved ratification in spring 2003 by a large majority. The instrument of ratification was submitted to the UN on 9 July 2003.

Second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol

In March 2005, EU environment ministers called for climate protection targets to cover the period after 2012: they regarded further emissions reductions by industrialised countries as necessary: 15 to 30 per cent by 2020 and of 60 to 80 per cent by 2050.

A few months later, the Climate Conference in Montreal made the first decisions on the procedure for achieving the goals of the Climate Change Convention. Negotiations on a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol were begun.

At the International Climate Conference in Bali in 2007, a separate negotiation process on the organisation and reinforcement of the Convention was launched. In 2011, in Durban, the further specifics of the 2013-2020 regime were agreed and a breakthrough was made on climate policy after 2020: a new mandate for an agreement for all states was approved. It should be adopted in 2015 and come into force in 2020, the Paris Agreement.

In Doha (Qatar), the following countries agreed to a further commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol: Australia, the EU, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland. The Doha Amendment would enter into force as soon as 144 states had ratified this instrument. Major emitters such as China, the USA, Russia, India, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and South Africa announced politically binding reduction targets to be achieved by 2020 under the Convention. 

The 2nd commitment period extended to 2020. A third commitment period is not planned.

Last modification 24.04.2023

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