The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." The Kyoto Protocol establishes legally binding commitment for the reduction of four greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride), and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by "annex I" (industrialized) nations, as well as general commitments for all member countries. As of January 2009[update], 183 parties have ratified the protocol, which was initially adopted for use on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and which entered into force on 16 February 2005. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries agreed to reduce their collective green house gas (GHG) emissions by 5.2% from the level in 1990. National limitations range from the reduction of 8% for the European Union and others to 7% for the United States, 6% for Japan, and 0% for Russia. The treaty permitted the emission increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.
Kyoto includes defined "flexible mechanisms" such as Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation to allow annex I economies to meet their GHG emission limitations by purchasing GHG emission reductions credits from elsewhere, through financial exchanges, projects that reduce emissions in non-annex I economies, from other annex I countries, or from annex I countries with excess allowances. In practice this means that non-annex I economies have no GHG emission restrictions, but have financial incentives to develop GHG emission reduction projects to receive "carbon credits" that can then be sold to annex I buyers, encouraging sustainable development. In addition, the flexible mechanisms allow annex I nations with efficient, low GHG-emitting industries, and high prevailing environmental standards to purchase carbon credits on the world market instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions domestically. Annex I entities typically will want to acquire carbon credits as cheaply as possible, while non-annex I entities want to maximize the value of carbon credits generated from their domestic Greenhouse Gas Projects.
Among the annex I signatories, all nations have established Designated National Authorities to manage their greenhouse gas portfolios; countries including Japan, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and others are actively promoting government carbon funds, supporting multilateral carbon funds intent on purchasing carbon credits from non-annex I countries, and are working closely with their major utility, energy, oil and gas and chemicals conglomerates to acquire greenhouse gas certificates as cheaply as possible. Virtually all of the non-annex I countries have also established Designated National Authorities to manage the Kyoto process, specifically the "CDM process" that determines which GHG Projects they wish to propose for accreditation by the CDM Executive Board.
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