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At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, countries from all over the world committed themselves to reducing greenhouse gases emissions to a level “not leading to dangerous climate change”. These commitments are stated in the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change and The Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto protocal was signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. In this protocol, industrialised countries commited themselves to reduceing their greenhouse gas emissions by a few percent in 2008-2012 compared to the 1990 base year. The exact percentage for each country is noted in the Annex 1 of the Protocol. The reduction is partly to be done domestically, but can also be reached by investing in other countries or trading emission allowances. These possibilities for countries with a Kyoto commitment are called the Kyoto mechanisms.

  • The Clean Development Mechanism is a mechanism, which allows developing countries to receive investments for the construction of new facilities in order to replace old ones.

  • Joint Implementation is a mechanism that permits the industrialised countries, which are unable to reach their reduction target solely by domestic means, to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions through investing in the economies of the countries in transition. The donors receive a share of the reduced emissions.

  • International Emission Trading is a mechanism that allows trading the parts of the reduced emissions, which exceed the commitments. Countries who fail to diminish their emissions can buy these 'credits' from countries, which have reduced their greenhouse gases below the committed level. Environmentalists protest against this emission carbon credit trading as it does not contribute to alleviating climate change.

One major requirement of the UN Convention and the Kyoto Protocol is that each country is obliged to inform the other parties of the national actions on climate change through a special report called National Communication.

The Kyoto Protocol will work if countries responsible for 55 percent of nations' emissions approve it. The document has been ratified by 120 nations but has been weakened by a US pullout withdrawing its 36 percent in 2001. Countries accounting for 44 percent of emissions have so far signed up. International efforts now are focused on persuading Russia to ratify the Protocol. Russia is responsible 17 percent of global emmissions and has, potentially, a casting vote to enforce the protocol.

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