Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1992, 160 countries came together in Kyoto (Japan) in 1997 to discuss measures to fight global warming.
After difficult negotiations, the participants came to an agreement to reduce the emissions of six greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012: Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) and perfluorocarbon. Each country would be responsible for its targets.
As for the means for achieving these targets, several provisions were put forward: Internal measures, emission permits, and joint mechanisms.
Countries that breached the agreement were to be subject to sanctions but the text did not specify the sanctions that would be applied.
The United States, under Bill Clinton, signed the Protocol but in 2001 George W Bush announced that the protocol was not in the country's economic interests and therefore the United States would not ratify it.
Many public figures appealed to President Bush to reconsider but it was in vain.
However, the European Union supported the Protocol objectives and it came into effect in February 2005.
As of today, the Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 163 countries.
France and Europe are among those who have gone furthest in applying the terms of the agreement.
Kyoto Protocol Download (PDF - 76 Ko)