The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC's background publication, Caring for Climate, describes the Kyoto Protocol in the following way.
The Kyoto Protocol supplements and strengthens the Convention, providing a framework for remedial and precautionary action to tackle adverse effects of climate change. Only Parties to the Convention can become Parties to the Protocol. The Protocol is founded on the same principles as the Convention and shares its ultimate objective, as well as the way it groups and classifies countries. It also shares the Convention's institutions, including its subsidiary bodies and secretariat. The Conference of the Parties serves as the 'meeting of the Parties' to the Protocol. The IPCC supports the Protocol on scientific, technical and methodological matters, in the same way as it supports the Convention. The Protocol's rules focus on:
- Commitments, including legally binding emissions targets and general commitments
- Implementation, including domestic steps and three novel implementing mechanisms
- Minimizing impacts on developing countries, including use of the Adaptation Fund
- Accounting, reporting and review, including in-depth review of national reporting
- Compliance, including a Compliance Committee to assess and deal with problems.
In addition to emissions targets for Annex I Parties, the Kyoto Protocol also contains a set of general commitments (mirroring those in the Convention) that apply to all Parties, such as:
- Taking steps to improve the quality of emissions data
- Mounting national mitigation and adaptation programmes
- Promoting environmentally friendly technology transfer
- Cooperating in scientific research and international climate observation networks
- Supporting education, training, public awareness and capacity building (Caring for Climate, page 24-25).