Getting the lowdown on the Kyoto Protocol

Nov 22 | Updated: Nov 23 2005, 06:27am hrs
About 190 governments will meet in Montreal, Canada, from November 28-December 9 to review the UNs Kyoto Protocol meant to cut emissions of gases blamed for global warming. Here are some frequently asked questions about Kyoto:

What is Kyoto Protocol

It is a pact agreed by governments at a 1997 UN conference in Kyoto, Japan, to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by developed countries by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012. A total of 156 nations have ratified the pact.

Is it the first agreement of its kind

Governments agreed to tackle climate change at an Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Kyoto is the follow-up and is the first legally binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gases.

So its legally binding

It has acquired legal force from Feb. 16, 2005. It represents 61.6% of developed nations total emissions. The United States, the worlds biggest polluter, has pulled out, saying Kyoto is too expensive and wrongly omits developing nations.

How will it be enforced

Countries overshooting their targets in 2012 will have to make both the promised cuts and 30% more in a second period from 2013.

Do all countries have to cut emissions by 5.2% No, only 39 relatively developed countries have target levels for 2008-12 under a principle that richer countries are most to blame and so should take the lead.

How are they doing so far

Rich nations emissions were 5.9% below 1990 levels in 2003 but this was mainly due to a collapse of Soviet-era industries. Many other nations are above targetU.S. emissions were up 13.1%

What are these greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the earths atmosphere. The main one is carbon dioxide, most of which comes from burning fossil fuel. The protocol also covers methane, much of which comes from agriculture, and nitrous oxide, mostly from fertiliser use. Three industrial gases are also included.

How will countries comply

The EU set up a market in January 2005 under which about 12,000 factories and power stations are given carbon dioxide quotas. If they overshoot they can buy extra allowances in the market or pay a financial penalty; if they undershoot they can sell them.