Questions & Answers on EU ratification of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol
European Commission - MEMO/13/956 06/11/2013
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Brussels, 6 November 2013
Questions & Answers on EU ratification of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol
1. What is the European Commission proposing?
The Commission has tabled a proposal for the ratification of the so-called Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. The Doha Amendment, agreed at the UN climate conference in Doha, Qatar in December 2012, comprises a number of amendments to the Kyoto Protocol which establish a second commitment period with legally-binding emission commitments for the years 2013–2020. Once adopted by the Council (with consent of the European Parliament), the proposed ratification decision would enable the EU's legally-binding commitments in the second Kyoto period to enter into force in international law when the Doha Amendment has received sufficient ratifications to take effect.
The ratification decision proposed by the Commission would conclude the Doha Amendment on behalf of the EU. However, since the Kyoto Protocol is an agreement to which both the EU and its Member States are Parties, each Member States will also need to ratify the Doha Amendment on its own behalf. This also applies to Iceland, with which the EU and its Member States intend to jointly fulfil their commitment.
Once all domestic ratification processes are completed, the European Union, its Member States and Iceland will deposit their ratification instruments with the UN simultaneously in order to ensure that entry into force occurs for all at the same time. By tabling its proposal now, the Commission aims for this deposit of ratification instruments by the EU, its Member States and Iceland to take place by early 2015.
The Commission has also proposed an amendment to the EU Monitoring Mechanism Regulation1 for greenhouse gases to enable the implementation of a number of technical issues related to the second commitment period.
2. Do the proposals change Member States’ targets or obligations under the 2009 ‘Climate and Energy Package’ of legislation?
No. When preparing for the joint commitment to be taken on by the EU, its Member States and Iceland together, the Council concluded in March 2012 that the joint commitment should be “determined on the basis of the total (greenhouse gas) emissions allowed under the Climate and Energy Package,” thus reflecting the EU’s unilateral commitment to reduce its emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. The Council also concluded that, with this approach, “the emission reduction obligations of individual EU Member States shall not exceed their obligations agreed in EU legislation”.
The Commission has prepared its proposal on this basis. The proposal therefore does not alter the targets and obligations established in EU legislation under the Climate and Energy Package.
3. Isn't the EU already complying with the second commitment rules? Why is ratification necessary?
Yes, based on the Climate and Energy Package, the EU and its Member States are already implementing a 20% emissions reduction by 2020. This allowed them to agree to implement their mitigation commitments for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period as of its start on 1 January 2013.
Ratification is nonetheless necessary to enable the entry into force of the Doha Amendment as legally-binding commitments.
Enabling the entry into force of Europe’s commitments as legally-binding commitments in international law sends a strong signal about the commitment of the EU and its Member States to a rules-based multilateral regime for addressing climate change at international level, both now and in the future with the new international climate agreement that should be completed by 2015.
4. What does joint fulfilment mean?
'Joint fulfilment' is a technical term of the Kyoto Protocol. It means that several Parties may agree to achieve their emission commitments jointly.
Once the joint commitment has been achieved, all Parties participating in the ‘joint fulfilment’ are considered to be in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol’s emission obligations. Only if the joint commitment is not achieved does each Party become responsible for its individual emissions level, according to the ‘terms of joint fulfilment.’
5. What would happen if a Member State or Iceland did not meet its national target under EU law and under the Kyoto Protocol?
National emissions targets are laid down in EU legislation through the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision.2 If a Member State does not meet this target, this may constitute an infringement of EU legislation, which means that the Commission may open a so-called 'infringement procedure'.
As long as the joint reduction commitment by the European Union, its Member States and Iceland is achieved, the compliance assessment under the Kyoto Protocol does not consider whether the individual Member States have met their national targets.
Non-compliance with the Kyoto Protocol by an individual Member State can occur only if:
1. The joint commitment between the EU, its Member States and Iceland is not achieved; and
2. The individual Member State does not comply with its national target; and
3. The Member State does not buy sufficient internationally valid Kyoto emission units to compensate for the shortfall in its domestic emission reductions.
In addition, the EU and each of the members of the joint fulfilment agreement, including the Member States, will also be jointly in non-compliance if the joint commitment between the EU, its Member States and Iceland is not achieved.
The compliance assessment for Kyoto’s second commitment period will not take place until 2023. Until then, the EU, its Member States and Iceland will monitor their emission trends and the projections up to 2020 to ensure they stay on track to achieve their targets. When the emissions for the entire second commitment period have been established (by 2023), there will be an additional period of time for all Parties to buy emission units in order to avoid non-compliance.
6. What would happen if the EU, Member States and Iceland failed to deliver on their joint commitment?
If the joint commitment of the EU, its Member States and Iceland, ie the 20% emissions reduction by 2020, were not achieved, the compliance assessment at the end of the second commitment period would consider whether the EU, its Member States and Iceland had complied with the emissions levels under their individual responsibilities. The individual emission levels have to be set out in the terms of joint fulfilment, together with the ratification, precisely for this purpose.
7. Why is the EU undertaking joint fulfilment with Iceland?
As a member of the European Economic Area, Iceland is already participating in the EU's greenhouse gas emissions trading system. In 2009, Iceland expressed its intention to jointly fulfil its commitments in a second commitment period together with the EU and its Member States. The Council welcomed this request and concluded that joint fulfilment in the second commitment period should include Iceland. The Council also requested the Commission to prepare the relevant proposals in this respect.
8. What will Iceland's target be?
Iceland’s target will be laid down in a treaty that still needs to be negotiated with Iceland.
9. Does joint fulfilment with Iceland depend on Iceland joining the EU?
No. Iceland is interested in joint fulfilment with the EU and its Member States irrespective of whether it joins the EU or not. The suspension of accession negotiations between Iceland and the EU therefore has no impact on the joint fulfilment of the commitment jointly agreed by the EU, its Member States and Iceland for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
10. What does the ratification process involve?
The ratification process, as the process leading to legally-binding force of the Doha Amendment for the EU, its Member States and Iceland, involves 30 domestic ratification processes because each of these Parties needs to ratify the Doha Amendment.
The agreement with Iceland on Iceland’s target will need to be concluded before the EU’s ratification decision can be formally adopted as it needs to be embedded therein. Once all domestic ratification processes are completed, the EU, its Member States and Iceland will simultaneously deposit their ratification instruments with the UN.
When 144 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have deposited their ratification instruments, the Doha Amendment will enter into force for those Parties which have already ratified.
11. How many other Parties are taking part in the second commitment period?
All 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have agreed to the Doha Amendment establishing the second commitment period. However, only developed country Parties listed in the Kyoto Protocol's Annex B take on emission commitments under the Protocol.
Thirty-eight developed country Parties, including the EU, its Member States and Iceland, have taken on legally-binding emission commitments for the second period amounting to an average reduction of at least 18% below 1990 levels.
The number of developed country Parties with a commitment for the second period is one more than under the first commitment period. Four Parties that did not have a commitment in the first period – EU Member States Cyprus and Malta, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan - have taken one for the second period. However, Japan, New Zealand and the Russian Federation, which did have commitments for the first period, have not taken on commitments for the second period. This means that the second commitment period covers a much smaller share of global emissions – around 14-15% - than the first.
The Kyoto Protocol is not the only instrument for addressing emissions, however. More than 70 developed and developing countries which do not have commitments under the second Kyoto period, including China, the US, India, Japan and Russia, have made voluntary commitments to limit or reduce their emissions by 2020.
12. What is the EU's contribution to global GHG emissions?
The EU presently accounts for some 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This includes emissions from, or absorbed by, forests and agricultural land.
13. What are the main changes in the amended Kyoto Protocol?
The main changes are the establishment of the second commitment period and the new emission commitments inscribed for the period.
A further change, introduced at the EU’s initiative, enables Parties to strengthen their emission commitments during the period without a formal ratification process. In addition, the Doha Amendment includes a provision that ensures commitments for the second period are not less ambitious than those under the first period.
14. What does the Commission’s proposal on technical issues address?
There are a number of technical issues related to the management of emission units for accounting purposes in the second commitment period which need to be implemented through the registries system of the EU and Member States. The proposed Decision on technical issues provides the legal basis to amend the existing Registries Regulation3 and implement these technical issues to ensure a fully operational accounting system in the second commitment period. It requires approval by the European Parliament and the Council through the co-decision procedure.
15. When will the second commitment period enter into force?
The Doha Amendment establishing the second commitment period will enter into force on the 90th day after 144 of the 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN.
16. Have any Parties already ratified the Doha Amendment?
So far three Parties have ratified: Barbados, the United Arab Emirates and Mauritius.
See also IP/13/1035
Decision No 406/2009/EC on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020
Commission Regulation (EU) No 389/2013 establishing a Union Registry pursuant to Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Decisions No 280/2004/EC and No 406/2009/EC