Setting targets

National governments within the United Nations began discussing lowering greenhouse gas emissions way back in 1990 at the first meeting to set up the UNFCCC. And ever since, the conventions and protocols under the UNFCCC have used 1990 emission levels as the base for setting reduction targets.

Going into the negotiations at Kyoto, the European Union demanded a 15-percent global reduction in greenhouse gases. The United States and Canada insisted on a much lower target. Ultimately, the parties settled on a global target for industrialized countries of 5.2 percent below 1990 global emission levels.

A global reduction of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels is actually a 24.2-percent reduction today, according to the World Bank, because of how much emissions have increased.

The Kyoto Protocol covers carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). (We cover these greenhouse gases in detail in Chapter 2.)

The countries that have binding targets for emission reductions are Annex 1 countries to the Convention — but not all Annex 1 countries are part of the Kyoto Protocol. (The United States, for example, did not ratify the Protocol.)

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