Kyoto Protocol Highlights

A brief overview of the provisions of the Kyoto climate treaty:

· Sets mandatory targets on emissions of six gases that contribute to global warming: Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

· Countries have flexibility in deciding how they will meet their targets. Many are moving toward emissions-trading systems, in which nations set caps on greenhouse gas emissions that decline over time. Companies that are over their allocation can either install new technology or buy permits to pollute from companies that have allocations to spare. The idea is create incentives for reducing emissions.

· Negotiated in 1997; entered into force on Feb. 16, 2005, 90 days after nations accounting for 55 percent of total carbon emissions ratified the agreement. Major industrialized nations that have signed but have not ratified the protocol include the United States and Australia; they are not bound by the agreement.

· Countries can also compensate for their emissions by helping developing nations develop less polluting energy sources. Ultimately, they may also be given credit for creating carbon "sinks" — such as forests — that soak up and store carbon.

· Most industrialized nations are required to cut emissions below 1990 levels, although some will be allowed to increase emissions by up to 10 percent over 1990 levels. In general, developing nations have no obligation to cut emissions now, but may be asked to make future cuts. Overall, the protocol’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012, with further reductions to be negotiated in the future.

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