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The Kyoto Protocol
In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, New Zealand and other countries, including the United States of America, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). Among other things, the convention required member governments to estimate and report their countries’ greenhouse gas emissions and to aim to reduce their emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.
Emission targets, taken as an average for the period 2008-2012, are expressed as percentage changes compared to a country’s emissions in 1990. Targets vary by country. The European Union’s target is –8% (i.e. an 8% reduction), the USA’s is –7%, Canada and Japan have targets of –6%, while Australia negotiated a target of +8%. This meant that Australia could increase its emissions compared to 1990 levels, but this would still be a reduction on “business as usual”, i.e. emissions that would occur in the absence of any measures to reduce them. New Zealand’s target is 0%, i.e. no change from 1990 levels.
The Protocol became legally binding in February 2005, when ratification by Russia satisfied the requirement for the Protocol to be ratified by countries with 55% of developed country emissions. The New Zealand Government ratified in late 2002, joining the European Union, Japan and Canada as well as a number of other developed and developing countries. A total of 175 Parties have now ratified the Protocol, although the United States of America and Australia have so far refused to ratify.
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