What Is the Kyoto Protocol?

Published February 1, 2003

The Kyoto Protocol on global warming is an amendment to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), more popularly known as the Rio Treaty.

Whereas the Rio Treaty set voluntary goals for reducing greenhouse gases, the Protocol requires participating developed countries to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2012. The goal for the U.S. was to have been 7 percent below 1990’s level. The United States withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol last year, but remains a party to the 1992 Rio Treaty.

The Protocol goes into effect when no fewer than 55 parties to the UNFCCC accounting for at least 55 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 have ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to the Protocol.

According to the Web site of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (http://unfccc.int/), as of December 20, 2002 101 countries accounting for 43.9 percent of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions had ratified the Protocol. The Protocol was most recently ratified, in December, by Canada, New Zealand, and Poland.