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Reduction of Greenhouse Gases
The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce the greenhouse gases to a level that does not cause human harm.
Developed countries, listed in Annex I of the treaty, must ensure that greenhouse gas emissions do not exceed the specified amounts. These amounts are a bit different for each country. However, added together, if the agreed levels are reached, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to a level of at least 5% below the 1990 levels in the commitment period of 2008 to 2012. This might not sound like a lot, but every bit counts.
Developed and Developing Countries
Studies have shown that developed countries emit the most greenhouse gases. The Protocol responds to this by giving the developed countries the greatest responsibility. This means that the countries emitting the most will have to reduce most. The Protocol has provided each country with their own target levels. These levels range from 8% reductions for the European Union(EU), 7% reductions for the United States, 6% for Japan, and 0% for Russia and New Zealand, to permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.
The protocol recognizes that developing countries must be given 'breathing space' in order to develop, and are allowed to choose their own base year, against which they measure their emission reductions.
Scientific Research and Collaboration
The protocol also promotes collaboration amongst countries. The participating nations must make an effort to "share their experience" and exchange information on improving their efficiency. The Protocol encourages developed countries to assist others to develop, and to find new energy sources.
Scientific research involving the reduction of greenhouse gases, is one of the main pieces of information that countries can share. Specifically the Protocol says that countries should carry out:
"research on, and promotion, development and increased use of, new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies"
This is when developed countries work with developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In return, the developed country earns an 'emissions credit'. This is thought to be a win-win situation as the Annex 1 countries are able to meet their goals while other countries will have received external investment and development.
Clean Development Mechanism
The Clean Development Mechanism is for developing countries, that don't h ave target levels. The developed countries can help the developing countries to reduce emissions and through this the developed countries will receive credit in the form of certified emissions reductions (CERs).
The Kyoto Protocol has introduced a trading system with tradable emission credits. The emission credit units are called Assigned Amount Units (AAU), and can be sold and bought among countries. If a country can't meet their own target, they can buy emission credits from countries that have surplus emissions credits.
Some people are worried that rich countries will make no effort and just buy the emission credits; however, buying emission credits is quite expensive.
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