* The Protocol's major feature is that it has mandatory targets on greenhouse-gas emissions for the
world's leading economies which have accepted it. These targets range from -8
per cent to +10 per cent of the countries' individual 1990 emissions levels "with a
view to reducing their overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 per cent below existing
1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012." In almost all cases -- even those
set at +10 per cent of 1990 levels -- the limits call for significant reductions in currently
projected emissions. Future mandatory targets are expected to be established for
"commitment periods" after 2012. These are to be negotiated well in advance of the
* Commitments under the Protocol vary from nation to
nation. The overall 5 per cent target for developed countries is to be met through cuts
(from 1990 levels) of 8 per cent in the European Union (EU), Switzerland, and most
Central and East European states; 6 per cent in Canada; 7 per cent in the United States
(although the US has since withdrawn its support for the Protocol); and 6 per cent in
Hungary, Japan, and Poland. New Zealand, Russia, and Ukraine are to stabilize their
emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1 per cent, Australia by up to 8 per
cent (subsequently withdrew its support for the Protocol), and Iceland by 10 per
cent. The EU has made its own internal agrement to meet its 8 per cent target by distributing
different rates to its member states. These targets range from a 28 per cent reduction by
Luxembourg and 21 per cent cuts by Denmark and Germany to a 25 per cent increase by Greece
and a 27 per cent increase by Portugal.
* To compensate for the sting of "binding targets," as they are called, the
agreement offers flexibility in how countries may
meet their targets. For example, they may partially compensate for their emissions by
increasing "sinks" -- forests, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
That may be accomplished either on their own territories or in other countries. Or they may
pay for foreign projects that result in greenhouse-gas cuts. Several mechanisms have been set
up for this purpose. (See the sub-chapters on "emissions trading," the "clean
development mechanism," and "joint implementation.")
* The Kyoto Protocol is a complicated agreement that has been slow in coming--there are
reasons for this. The Protocol not only has to
be an effective against a complicated worldwide problem -- it also has to be politically
acceptable. As a result, panels and committees have multiplied to monitor and referee its
various programmes, and even after the agreement was approved in 1997, further negotiations
were deemed necessary to hammer out instructions on how to "operate" it. These
rules, adopted in 2001, are called the "Marrakesh Accords."
* There is a delicate balance to international
treaties. Those appealing enough to gain widespread support often aren't strong enough to
solve the problems they focus on. (Because the Framework Convention was judged to have this
weakness, despite its many valuable provisions, the Protocol was created to supplement it.)
Yet treaties with real "teeth" may have difficulty attracting enough widespread
support to be effective.
* Some mechanisms of the Protocol had enough support
that they were set up in advance of the Protocol's entry into force. The Clean
Development Mechanism, for example -- through which industrialized countries can partly meet
their binding emissions targets through "credits" earned by sponsoring
greenhouse-gas-reducing projects in developing countries -- already had an executive board
before the Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005.
* For the full details of the Kyoto Protocol, see the text of the Protocol.