Chapters :

Global Migration and Adaptation – 04

1997- In Kyoto, First Legally Binding Climate Treaty

At COP3 in Japan, the conference adopts the Kyoto Protocol. The legally binding treaty requires developed countries to reduce emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels and establishes a system to monitor countries’ progress. But the protocol does not compel developing countries, including high carbon emitters China and India, to take action. It also creates a carbon market for countries to trade emissions units and encourage sustainable development, a system known as “cap and trade.” Countries must now work out the details of implementing and ratifying the protocol.

2001 – Breakthrough in Bonn, But Without the U.S.:

The Kyoto Protocol is in jeopardy after talks collapse in November 2000 and the United States withdraws in March 2001, with Washington saying that the protocol is not in the country’s “economic best interest.” In July 2001, negotiators in Bonn, Germany, reach breakthroughs on green technology, agreements on emissions trading, and compromises on how to account for carbon sinks (natural reservoirs that take in more carbon than they release). In October, countries agree on the rules for meeting targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, paving the way for its entry into force.

2001 – Marrakesh accords:

The seventh Conference of the Parties results in the Marrakesh Accords, setting the stage for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. This would formalize agreement on operational rules for International Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation along with a compliance regime and accounting procedures.

Rio +20 summit: World Summit on Sustainable Development 

The Earth Summit II or Rio +10 made the commitment to be one of the largest and important global meetings ever held on the integration of economic, environmental and social decision-making. It will focus on building a commitment at the highest levels of government and society to better implement Agenda 21, the roadmap for achieving sustainable development adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development — the “Earth Summit” — held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2005 – Kyoto Protocol Takes Effect

The Kyoto Protocol enters into force in February after it is ratified by enough countries to account for at least 55 percent of global emissions. Notably, it does not include the United States, the world’s leading carbon emitter. Between 2008 and 2012, when the protocol is set to expire, countries are supposed to reduce emissions by their pledged amounts: The European Union commits to reduce emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels, Japan commits to 5 percent, and Russia commits to keeping levels steady with 1990 levels.

 2006 – Clean Development Mechanism Opens:

The Clean Development Mechanism, a key mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, opens for business.

2007 – Bali

The thirteenth Conference of the Parties adopts the Bali Road Map, including the Bali Action Plan, charting the course for a new negotiating process to address climate change by 2009 The Plan has five main categories: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing.

2008 – Joint Implementation Mechanism Starts

The Kyoto Protocol mechanism ‘Joint Implementation’ starts. This allows a country with an emission reduction or limitation commitment under the Protocol to earn emission reduction units (ERUs) from an emission-reduction or emission removal project in another country with similar commitments.

2009 – Disappointment in Copenhagen

The successor to the Kyoto Protocol is supposed to be finalized at COP15 in Copenhagen, but the parties only come up with a nonbinding document that is “taken note of,” not adopted. The Copenhagen Accord acknowledges that global temperatures should not increase by 2°C above preindustrial levels, though representatives from developing countries sought a target of 1.5°C.

2010 – Temperature Target Set in Cancun

There is increased pressure to reach a consensus in Mexico during COP16 after the failure in Copenhagen and NASA’s announcement that 2000–2009 was the warmest decade ever recorded. Countries commit for the first time to keep global temperature increases below 2°C in the Cancun Agreements. Approximately eighty countries, including China, India, and the United States, as well as the European Union, submit emissions reduction targets and actions, and they agree on stronger mechanisms for monitoring progress. But analysts say it’s not enough to stay below the 2° target. The Green Climate Fund, a $100 billion fund to assist developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change, is also established. As of 2019, only around $3 billion has been contributed.

2011 – New Accord to Apply to All Countries

The conference in Durban, South Africa, nearly collapses after the world’s three biggest polluters—China, India, and the United States—reject an accord proposed by the European Union. But they eventually agree to work toward drafting a new, legally binding agreement in 2015 at the latest. The new agreement will differ from the Kyoto Protocol in that it will apply to both developed and developing countries. With the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in a few months, the parties agree to extend it until 2017.

2012 – Doha

At the eighteenth Conference of the Parties, governments agree to speedily work toward a universal climate change agreement by 2015 and to find ways to scale up efforts before 2020 beyond existing pledges to curb emissions. They also adopt the Doha Amendment, launching a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.


The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – or Rio+20 – took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 20-22 June 2012. It resulted in a focused political outcome document which contains clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development. In Rio, Member States decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. The Conference also adopted ground-breaking guidelines on green economy policies. Governments also decided to establish an intergovernmental process under the General Assembly to prepare options on a strategy for sustainable development financing.

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