The protocol, known officially as the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change introduces for the first time a legally binding commitment for developed countries to cut their emission of greenhouse gases. Its ratification should lead to an overall global reduction of these gases of at least five per cent by 2012.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Without these gases, the Earth’s temperature would not support the variety of life on this planet. The Kyoto Protocol addresses the six main greenhouse gases. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), most of which comes from the burning of fossil fuels.
Each developed country’s commitment is phrased in the Protocol in terms of an ‘assigned amount’. Developed countries have to achieve their assigned amounts within the five-year period 2008 – 2012, this timeframe being the first commitment period agreed upon under the provisions of the protocol.
The Kyoto commitments vary from nation to nation. The EU has made its own internal agreement to meet its 8 % target by distributing different rates to its member states. These targets range from a 28 % reduction by Luxembourg to a 27 % increase by Portugal.
Developing countries, including India and China, do not have to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the first phase of Kyoto reductions because their per capita emissions are significantly lower than those of developed countries.