Kyoto Protocol comes into effect

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Global warming

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

New York — The Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from developed nations, came in force on Wednesday at 6am UTC. The treaty has been signed by 141 nations who together account for 55% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The treaty was proposed in December 1997 and requires signatories to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by the year 2012 in an effort to reduce the impact of global warming. Each country has individual targets.

Of the major industrialized nations, the USA and Australia are notable absentees from the list of signatories. Both argue that the treaty is flawed and that signing the protocol is not in their national economic interests. The United States produces more CO2 emissions than any other single country in the world, both in total (5,410 million metric tons) and also per capita (20.1 tons per capita).

Despite this, the way was paved for ratification of the treaty after Russia signed up in November 2004.

Other criticisms of the protocol are that the treaty does not include India and China, or other developing nations.

Countries that ratify the treaty will have access to the emerging international market in carbon credits, estimated to be worth billions of dollars each year. This system allows individual countries to trade in their emission allowances - a country can buy credit from another that has cut emissions, and then increase their own carbon dioxide production.