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Kyoto Agreement


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Kyoto Agreement, key points

  • Kyoto is a legally binding agreement between signed-up countries to meet emissions reduction targets of all greenhouse gases by 2012 relative to 1990 levels.

  • No. of countries which took part in the discussions (in 1997): 141

  • No. of (industrialised) countries which ratified the agreement (in 2001): 34

  • Reason for delay: the agreement needed countries responsible for 55% of 1990 emissions to ratify - after the USA refused in 2001, Russian ratification was needed - this was only obtained in Nov'04.

  • Overall average emissions target: 5.4%

  • UK target: 12.5%

  • Some eco-advanced countries have agreed to high emissions targets; e.g. Germany and Denmark 21%

  • Some less advanced countries are allowed to increase emissions: e.g. Greece +25%, Spain +15%, Ireland +13%

  • The large developing countries, especially China, India and Brazil, took part in the discussions but were not expected to have reduction targets.

  • Penalties: (in Europe) 40 Euros per tonne of greenhouse gas. Also, after 2012, shortfalls to be added to any new target and multiplied by 1.3.

  • Review: annual meetings; next: Montreal, late Nov '05.

  • Market-based approach: to give incentives through carbon trading; e.g. a company or country finding it expensive to achieve an emissions reduction has the alternative of paying money ("buying credits") so that the money can be used elsewhere on projects where an equivalent emissions reduction can be achieved at less cost. Conversely, a company or country exceeding its target receives money ("selling credits"). In Europe, carbon is being traded at around 10 per tonne.

Sceptics say that Kyoto involves a lot of expense to achieve small emissions reductions - probably true but it was at least a first international agreement to try to reduce carbon emissions after much prevarication. We must hope that agreement for more effective emissions reductions will soon be reached.