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Governments first actively addressed the issues of global environmental needs when they gathered in Stockholm in 1972 to take part in the UN Conference on Human Environment. The focus of the conference was international cooperation regarding the problems the Earth’s environment was facing.

The next UN Conference on Environment and Development took Place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, 20 years after Stockholm. This time, as the theme of the conference suggests, the participating countries focused on a broader issue, namely, the relationship between environmental trends and development at the national and international levels.

The Rio Convention, also known as the “Earth Summit” produced the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 (a plan of action for the UN organizations, Governments, and Major Groups in areas where human activities have a negative impact on the environment) and also led to agreement on two other conventions which became open for signature – the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and Biological Diversity, both legally binding.

I consider the FCCC the most important of the products of the Rio Convention in terms of leading to the preparation of the Kyoto Protocol.The FCCC was signed by 154 countries in 1992. Its key points were:
1) stabilization of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, while also ensuring food production is not put under threat, and allowing for economic development to proceed.
2) developed countries should take the initiative in reducing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
3) no specific greenhouse-gas-reduction aims, time frames, or penalties for violators were agreed on
4) the participating countries decided on meeting at COPs (Conferences of the Parties) on a regular basis to work on the implementation of the Convention’s objectives.

After meeting for 2 COPs in Berlin and Geneva, eventually on the third COP held in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 the member countries prepared the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol decided upon:
1) emission-reduction targets of greenhouse gases for each of the member countries
2) a greenhouse gas emission-trading program
3) holding future meetings to set penalties for violators of the established targets and regulation rules of the emission-trading program


In 2001, George W. Bush was elected president of the USA. Unlike his predecessor, President Clinton, President Bush did not support the Protocol and announced that the United States withdraws the possibility of ratifying it. This act put into question the whole concept of addressing the issues of climate change on a global level. Furthermore, in order for the Protocol t be put into action it had to be ratified by at least 55 nations of the UN Framework Convention, with developed countries representing a total of 55% of the greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. With US holding a 36% portion of this share, a ratification seemed a difficult task.


The Kyoto Protocol finally came into effect on February 16, 2005, 7 years after it was first negotiated, when the goal of getting countries responsible for a total of 55% of the global emissions was achieved with the signature of Russia ratifying the document

The Kyoto Protocol is finally put into action