The Day After in Kyoto.

DECEMBER 11, 1997 – International negotiators, representing 159 countries, struck an historical agreement Wednesday to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

After 11 days of intense debate at the Third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, delegates agreed to the following provisions:

Developed Countries
Thirty-eight developed countries agreed to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases. Collectively, developed countries agreed to cut back their emissions by a total of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012 from 1990 levels. The six gases included carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three ozone-damaging fluorocarbons not covered by the Montreal Protocol that banned global chlorofluorocarbons (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride).

Developed countries that cannot meet their own emissions targets can strike deals with other developed countries that do better than required, to buy the excess "quota" – a concept known as emissions trading. This may encourage reductions to be made where most cost-effective. 

Although the agreement includes provisions for setting up this emissions trading regime in which developed countries will be able to trade the right to pollute, the details of that system are expected to be spelled out over the course of the next year and submitted to the next Conference of Parties meeting in November 1998.
The European Union agreed to reduce their emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels; the United States signed on to a 7 percent reduction; and Japan agreed to a 6 percent reduction. 

Some countries, including Russia and Ukraine, are not bound to make any reductions while countries with smaller economies such as Iceland, Norway and New Zealand are allowed to actually increase their emissions. Australia was also allowed to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries with Economies in Transition
Countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy but that are also classified along with the EU, Japan and the U.S. as Annex I parties to the Convention – including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, among others -- face smaller reductions. 

Developing Countries
Developing countries -- including China and India -- have no formal binding targets, but have the option to set voluntary reduction targets.

Next Steps
Disagreements continue over the obligations among developing countries in an emissions trading regime as well as the details of emissions trading between developed and developing countries.

A "clean development fund" was also established but the details, again, remain to be spelled out.

The Protocol, which was approved unanimously by the participants of the Kyoto conference and becomes binding on individual countries only after their governments’ complete ratification, will enter into force 90 days after 55 countries representing 55 percent of the developed countries' emissions sign on to the deal.

Theoretically, then, the Protocol could enter into force without U.S. ratification. But, this scenario remains highly unlikely.

The next Conference of Parties meeting will be held in November 1998 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where these lingering details and disagreements will be attempted to be worked out.