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Kyoto Summit - Global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions

Representatives of 160 countries agreed on new, legally binding limits for greenhouse gas emissions in the world's industrialized countries. Agreement was reached in the early hours of 11 December 1997, after ten days of tough negotiations at the Climate Change Conference, hel...
Representatives of 160 countries agreed on new, legally binding limits for greenhouse gas emissions in the world's industrialized countries. Agreement was reached in the early hours of 11 December 1997, after ten days of tough negotiations at the Climate Change Conference, held in Kyoto, Japan.

Under the agreement, reduction commitments relating to emissions of six greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)) have been established for all developed countries. The total reduction in emissions for all developed countries by 2010 is estimated at 5.2% below 1990 levels. The individual reduction commitments are as follows:

- European Union (as a whole), most Central and Eastern European countries and Switzerland: 8%;
- USA: 7%;
- Japan and Canada: 6%;
- New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine: stabilization;
- Norway: 1% increase;
- Australia: 8% increase;
- Iceland: 10% increase.

A certain amount of flexibility has been built into the agreement which will allow developed countries to meet part of their commitments through "emissions trading" amongst themselves. In addition, a "clean development mechanism", will allow financing of joint projects for the reduction of emissions in other industrialized countries or developing countries to count towards the commitments of developed countries. At this time, as the EU has argued, no emissions reductions targets have been set for developing countries.

Mrs. Ritt Bjerregaard, Commissioner responsible for the environment, expressed her satisfaction with the results achieved after 10 days of difficult negotiations. The initial positions of the EU and the USA and Japan had started very far apart, but "the EU had managed to pull the USA and Japan up from very low targets". "The EU is happy having led the way in a process which will bring real credible benefits for the environment," she continued.

The agreement, which takes the form of a legally-binding protocol to the Convention on Climate Change agreed in Rio in 1992. It will enter into force once it has been ratified by at least six countries representing at least 55% of the total 1990 greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries.
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