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International Agreements
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Kingdom ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 1993, and the Convention came into force in March 1994. The Convention sets an objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system."
Parties to the Convention are committed to develop, publish and regularly update national emission inventories of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and agree to integrate climate change considerations into their policies on agriculture, industry, energy, natural resources and to develop national programmes to slow climate change.
The Convention places the heaviest burden for addressing climate change on developed nations that are the source of most past and current greenhouse gas emissions, requiring them to:
Bullet Take the lead in reducing GHG emissions from their key sources;
Bullet Fund efforts to reduce GHG emissions in developing countries, through a number of mechanisms including grants and loans;
Bullet Share technology with less-advanced nations.
This framework document has been amended over time through additional agreements and mechanisms, the most significant of which was the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997
The Kyoto Protocol
The member countries of the Framework Convention on Climate negotiated an international agreement and adopted the Kyoto Protocol unanimously in 1997. The Kyoto Protocol sets mandatory targets on greenhouse-gas emissions for many of the world's leading economies, ranging from -8 % to +10 % of the countries' individual 1990 emissions levels.
Commitments under the Protocol vary from nation to nation with an overall 5 % target for developed countries to be met through cuts (from 1990 levels) of:
Bullet 8% in the European Union (EU[15]), Switzerland, and most Central and East European states;
Bullet 6% in Canada;
Bullet 7% in the United States (although the US has since withdrawn its support for the Protocol);
Bullet 6% in Hungary, Japan and Poland.
New Zealand, Russia, and Ukraine are to stabilize their emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1%, Australia by up to 8% (but has subsequently withdrawn its support for the Protocol), and Iceland by 10%.
The EU has developed its own internal agrement to meet its 8% target by distributing different rates across Member States, leading to targets ranging from a 28% reduction by Luxembourg to a 27% increase by Portugal.
The Protocol provides a number of flexible mechanisms through which these reductions targets may be met. For example, Parties may partially compensate for their GHG emissions by increasing "sinks" such as forests that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In addition, Parties may opt to offset their emissions by funding projects overseas that result in reductions in emissions of GHGs through mechanisms such as Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation.
Further negotiations have lead to the development of a set of rules for implementing many of the Kyoto Protocol activities. These rules were agreed and adopted in 2001 and called the Marrakesh Accords.
The UK inventory covers the six direct greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol:
Carbon dioxide
Nitrous oxide
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
These gases contribute directly to climate change owing to their positive radiative forcing effect. Also reported are four indirect greenhouse gases:
Nitrogen oxides (reported as NO2)
Carbon monoxide
Non-Methane Volatile Organic Compounds (NMVOC)
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Sulphur dioxide
Kyoto and UK Targets for GHG Emission Reductions
The UK’s inventory is used to provide historical data consistent with projections of GHG emissions for the UK’s Climate Change Programme, most recently updated in the Consultation Paper produced for the Review of the UK Climate Change Programme published in December 2004. The programme sets out policies to ensure that the UK delivers its legally binding target under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of the basket of the six greenhouse gases to 12.5% below 1990 levels over the first commitment period 2008-2012, and to move the UK towards its domestic goal of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels by 2010. The Energy White Paper published in 2003 announced the goal of putting the UK on a path to cut CO2 by 60% by 2050, with real progress by 2020. The programme is currently under formal review and is due to be revised during summer 2005.
EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)
Emissions Trading is one of the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, designed to enable emission reductions to be achieved in a cost-effective manner through a system of trading between countries. UK participants in the EU ETS will be able to trade units of GHG emissions across Europe. Some of the default carbon emission factors applied to fuel use data within this system are derived from the UK GHG inventory, in accordance with EU ETS guidance.
For more information on EU ETS visit the Defra web site.

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