The New Agreement from the Kyoto Earth Summit
KYOTO, Japan (Dec. 10) - Following are the main elements of the newly approved Kyoto Protocol to the 1992 Climate Change Treaty, approved after 11 days of arduous negotiations.
>> Reductions: Thirty-eight industrialized nations are required to reduce their ''greenhouse'' gas emissions from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The European Union would reduce them by 8 percent, the United States by 7 percent and Japan by 6 percent.
>> Some would face smaller reductions, and a few would not face any now. As a group, the nations would cut back on the emissions of such gases by just more than 5 percent.
>> Gases Involved: Emissions of six gases would be affected: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three halocarbons used as substitutes for ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons.
>> Offshore' Reductions: Countries that do not meet their own emission targets can strike deals with nations that do better than required, to buy the excess ''quota.'' This may encourage reductions to be made where most cost-effective.
>> Enforcement: A later meeting of the treaty parties will decide on ''appropriate and effective'' ways to deal with non-compliance.
>> Third World: Developing countries, including major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and India, are asked to set voluntary reduction targets
>> Next Step: The accord approved by the Kyoto conference takes effect once it is ratified by 55 nations, representing 55 percent of 1990 carbon dioxide emissions. It is binding on individual countries only after their governments' complete ratification.
Kyoto Treaty Just a Drop in the Global Warming Ocean
By Jim Poole (Rueters)
KYOTO, Japan (Dec. 11) - World weather experts praised the political will that secured a deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions here but say it will do little to douse warming of the planet over the next century.
Top United Nations climate change expert Robert Watson said it was ''the first step in a long journey to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions but it will take centuries or millennia to reverse the changes wrought by human activity.''
The cuts compare with a U.N. estimate that an immediate reduction of 60 percent in greenhouse gas emissions is needed to stabilize atmospheric gases at current levels.
Scientists have forecast global temperatures warming by up to four degrees centigrade over the next century, melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels, flooding low lying islands and threatening thousands of species with extinction.
Weather experts say this year is set to be the warmest ever and the five warmest years on record have been this decade.
''It's too little. It will mitigate warming a bit but the change will be small in relation to the size of the warming we expect,'' said British meteorologist Catherine Senior.
Greenhouse gases, which include water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons, are essential for life as we know it - keeping the planet about 30 degrees centigrade warmer than it otherwise would be.
But emissions are rising because of the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, triggering climate warming at an unprecedented speed, scientists say.
Some beneficial changes may result from widening temperate zones expanding areas where food crops can be grown in Europe and Canada, but most of the impact will be harmful.
Scientists say warming will increase tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, damage forests and coral reefs, reduce crop yields in the tropics and sub-tropics, displace tens of millions of people and stress fresh water resources.
Poor nations are much more vulnerable than rich ones but the effects could sharply slow world economic growth
Although food security is unlikely to be threatened at a global level, some regions will experience food shortages and hunger.
Some scientists say the climate warming may increase the frequency and intensity of freak weather events such as El Nino, a warming of the Pacific that brings drought to Southeast Asia and severe storms and floods to the west coast of the Americas.
World political leaders were virtually at one this week in acknowledging the human role in warming up the global climate.
U.S. Vice President Al Gore painted a graphic picture of what could be in store: ''More record floods and droughts, diseases and pests spreading to new areas, crop failures and famines, melting glaciers and rising seas.''
But industry leaders, fearful of the impact on business, were still keen to play down any link.
Clement Malin, chief delegate of the International Chamber of Commerce, which groups 7,500 organizations in 130 countries, conceded the world has warmed over the last 150 years.
''But there are large areas of uncertainty over whether it can be attributed to man's activities,'' he said.