Essence and Goals


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The Kyoto Protocol is significant because, unlike previous negotiations on climate change, which had only suggested that governments voluntarily reduce their emission of greenhouse gases, it contains concrete mandatory aims for the countries which have signed it. The Protocol commits Annex I countries (developed countries and countries in economic transition, which have accepted the emission-reduction goals for the period between 2008 and 2012) to individual, legally-binding commitments on the reduction of their greenhouse gas-emissions. The general target that the developed countries have to meet is to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by about 5% below their 1990 levels in the timeframe addressed by the Kyoto Protocol, namely 2008-2012. The individual targets the Protocol assigns for the countries vary from 7% for the United States(although it has since withdrawn its support for the Protocol), to 8% for the European Union which, however, it can distribute among its member states. Some countries, on the other hand are allowed to increase their greenhouse gas emission – such as Iceland (may have a 10% increase of emissions) or Portugal (27% increase allowed).

The Kyoto Protocol allows for flexibility in terms of the methods countries could use to meet their gas reduction commitments. Such methods include:

1)compensating for emissions by increasing the number of a country’s carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are forests, which take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Countries are allowed to create carbon sinks on suitable sites outside of their own territory.

2)emissions trading – trading of emission allowances between countries. The emissions trading method gives countries the opportunity to reduce emissions where it is most economically efficient to do so.

3)clean development mechanism – promotes environmentally-friendly foreign investments from industrialized countries into developing countries. The developing countries are thus aided at achieving sustainable development.

4)joint implementation – allows developed countries to sponsor foreign research to decrease emission levels in countries of economic transition. In exchange for the developed country’s investment, the host country provides the investor with emission reduction units, also known as carbon credits. The developed economies can afterwards use their carbon credits towards meeting their emission-reduction requirements under the Kyoto Protocol.