At the Rio Earth Summit, Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) agreed to stabilise emissions of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by the year 2000, in an attempt to mitigate the threat of global warming. Following this an historic agreement to actually cut emissions was agreed in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, at the third Conference of Parties to the FCCC. Industrial nations agreed to reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% from 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012.
Crucially, the Kyoto Protocol committed developed countries to make legally binding reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions. The six gases that were considered are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and replacements to the HCFCs, which are to be gradually phased over the next 30 years. These include the hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, the perfluorocarbons or PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride.
The Kyoto Protocol was endorsed by 160 countries. It will become legally binding provided at least 55 countries sign up to it, including developed nations responsible for at least 55% of greenhouse gas emissions from the industrialised world. The global cut in emissions of 5.2% is to be achieved by differential reductions for individual countries. The European Union, Switzerland and the majority of Central and Eastern European nations will deliver reductions of 8%; the US will cut emissions by 7%; and Japan, Hungary, Canada and Poland by 6%. New Zealand, Russia and the Ukraine are required to stabilise their emissions, whilst Australia, Iceland and Norway are permitted to increase slightly, although at a reduced rate to current trends. Within the European Union, further differential reduction rates apply. The UK has committed itself to a 12.5% reduction, although it has also set its own domestic target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide by 2010.