The Kyoto Accord is an international treaty whereby countries agree to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit if their neighbours do likewise. It is a very complex agreement that allows trading pollution credits. If it is cheaper to reduce emissions in country A, then country B can buy the pollution credits, and have them count toward its own quota of reductions. Happily, the global atmosphere does not care where the greenhouse gas reductions come from.
The current Kyoto round calls for a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 6% in Canada and 5% in the USA.
Why Ratify The Kyoto Accord?
After millions of years of remaining constant, greenhouse gas levels, particularly CO2, started to climb sharply at the beginning of the industrial revolution. They are now almost certainly higher than they have been in 20 million years. This is not a natural fluctuation. It is a side effect of us humans diligently burning the oil, coal and forests. These greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere, much like a giant greenhouse. The heating is called global warming.
Fair targets and flexible ways of meeting them
The Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions below levels specified for each of them in the Treaty. These targets must be met within a five-year time frame between 2008 and 2012, and add up to a total cut in GHG emissions of at least 5% against the baseline of 1990. Review and enforcement of these commitments are carried out by United Nations-based bodies. The Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” This has two main reasons. Firstly, those countries can more easily pay the cost of cutting emissions. Secondly, developed countries have historically contributed more to the problem by emitting larger amounts of GHGs per person than in developing countries.
In order to give Parties a certain degree of flexibility in meeting their emission reduction targets, the Protocol developed three innovative mechanisms - known as Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). These so-called ”market-based mechanisms” allow developed Parties to earn and trade emissions credits through projects implemented either in other developed countries or in developing countries, which they can use towards meeting their commitments. These mechanisms help identify lowest-cost opportunities for reducing emissions and attract private sector participation in emission reduction efforts. Developing nations benefit in terms of technology transfer and investment brought about through collaboration with industrialized nations under the CDM.