The Bonn Climate Change Conference

The Bonn Climate Change Conference
State Department Fact Sheet
Novemeber 1999






In December, 1997, in Kyoto, Japan, some 160 countries reached an historic agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to fight global warming — one of the most profound environmental challenges of the 21st century. The Kyoto Protocol includes binding emissions targets for developed nations — 8% below 1990 emissions levels for the European Union; 7% for the United States; and 6% for Japan — as well as U.S. proposals for flexible, market-based measures to ensure that these targets can be met in a cost-effective manner. The key market-based provisions are:

  • International emissions trading among nations with emissions targets. Under an emissions trading regime, countries or companies that find it relatively expensive to reduce emissions may purchase additional emissions units from those emitters that have more units than they need (because they have already met their targets with room to spare). Trading encourages reductions where they can be achieved at the lowest cost, thus getting the world the most greenhouse gas reductions for each available dollar, euro or yen.

  • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Industrialized countries will be able to use certified emissions reductions from projects in developing countries to contribute to their compliance with greenhouse gas reduction targets.

  • Joint implementation among developed countries. Countries with emissions targets may get credit towards their targets through joint project-based emissions reductions in other such countries.

The Protocol includes additional elements of flexibility:

  • Emissions targets are to be reached over a five-year commitment period. The first commitment period will be 2008-2012. Allowing emissions to be averaged over a commitment period helps smooth out short-term fluctuations due to economic performance or weather. Having a decade before the start of the binding period will allow more time for companies to make the transition to greater energy efficiency and/or lower carbon technologies.

  • Emissions targets include all six major greenhouse gases. This will provide more comprehensive environmental protection while lending additional flexibility to nations and companies in meeting their targets.

  • Activities that absorb carbon, such as planting trees, can be used as offsets against emissions of greenhouse gases. Including these so-called &$147;carbon sinks” will encourage activities such as afforestation, reforestation, and better forestry and agriculture conservation practices.

To enter into force, the Protocol must by ratified by at least 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of the total 1990 greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries. United States ratification will require the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.





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