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Kyoto Protocol on climate change

The Kyoto Protocol, which follows the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is one of the chief instruments for tackling climate change. It contains the undertakings entered into by the industrialised countries to reduce their emissions of certain greenhouse gases which are responsible for global warming. The total emissions of the developed countries are to be reduced by at least 5 % over the period 2008-2012 compared with 1990 levels.


Council Decision 2002/358/EC of 25 April 2002 concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.


On 4 February 1991 the Council authorised the Commission to participate on behalf of the European Community in the negotiation of a United Nations framework convention on climate change, which was adopted in New York on 9 May 1992. The European Community ratified the Framework Convention by Decision 94/69/EC of 15 December 1993. The Framework Convention entered into force on 21 March 1994.

The Framework Convention made a large contribution towards the establishment of key principles of the international fight against climate change. In particular, it defines the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility". It also helped to make people the world over more aware of the problems linked to climate change. However, the Convention does not contain commitments in figures, detailed on a country by country basis, in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

At the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Berlin in March 1995, the Parties to the Convention decided to negotiate a Protocol containing measures to reduce emissions for the period beyond 2000 in the industrialised countries. After much work, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto.

The European Community signed the Protocol on 29 April 1998. In December 2001 the Laeken European Council confirmed that the Union wanted to see the Kyoto Protocol enter into force ahead of the Johannesburg world summit on sustainable development (26 August – 4 September 2002). To that end, this Decision approved the Protocol on behalf of the Community. The Member States were to coordinate their action to deposit their instruments of ratification at the same time as the Community, and as far as possible by 1 June 2002.

Annex II to the Decision sets out the commitments to limit and reduce emissions agreed by the Community and its Member States for the initial commitment period (2008 to 2012).

The contents of the Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol tackles emissions of six greenhouse gases:

  • carbon dioxide (CO2);
  • methane (CH4);
  • nitrous oxide (N2O);
  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs);
  • sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

It represents an important step forward in the effort to tackle global warming as it includes binding, quantified objectives for limiting and reducing greenhouse gases.

Overall, the Parties to Annex I to the Framework Convention (i.e. the industrialised countries) undertake collectively to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce the total emissions of the developed countries by at least 5 % below 1990 levels, during the period 2008 to 2012. Annex B to the Protocol contains the quantified commitments given by the Parties.

The States which were members of the EU before 2004 must collectively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 8 % between 2008 and 2012. Member States which joined the EU after that date undertake to reduce their emissions by 8 %, with the exception of Poland and Hungary (6 %), and Malta and Cyprus, which are not listed in Annex I to the Framework Convention.

For the period up to 2008, the Parties undertake to make demonstrable progress in achieving their commitments by no later than 2005.

Parties who so wish, may make 1995 a reference year for emissions of HFCs, PFCs and SF6.

The Protocol suggests various means of attaining these objectives:

  • stepping up or introducing national policies to reduce emissions (greater energy efficiency, promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture, development of renewable energy sources, etc.);
  • cooperation with the other Contracting Parties (exchanges of experience or information, coordination of national policies through emission permits, joint implementation and a clean development mechanism).

No later than one year prior to the start of the first commitment period, each Party must have set up a national system of the estimation of emissions of human origin and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases (not controlled by the Montreal Protocol).

Commitments will be reviewed by 2005 at the latest, for the second commitment period.

On 31 May 2002, the European Union ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Following its ratification by Russia, the Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005. Several industrialised countries have refused to ratify the Protocol, including the United States and Australia.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2002/358/EC



OJ L 130 of 15.5.2002


Commission Decision 2006/944/EC of 14 December 2006 determining the respective emission levels allocated to the Community and each of its Member States under the Kyoto Protocol pursuant to Council Decision 2002/358/EC [Official Journal L 358 of 16.12.2010].Amended by:Commission Decision 2010/778/EU of 15 December 2010 [Official Journal L 332 of 16.12.2010].

Last updated: 04.04.2011