This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 16, 2005

Kyoto Protocol Takes Effect on February 16th

Following its ratification by Russia in late 2004, the Kyoto Protocol enters into force today, causing its greenhouse gas emission targets to become binding legal commitments for those industrialized countries that have ratified it. The Kyoto Protocol also puts several market-based mechanisms in action, including international greenhouse gas emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism, which credits participating countries for encouraging clean development in developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol sets emission targets for industrialized countries for the years 2008 to 2012, aiming to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries to at least 5 percent below 1990 levels. See the background information about the Kyoto Protocol on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Web site.

If all industrialized countries participated in the treaty, the Kyoto Protocol would apply to about half of global greenhouse gas emissions, but since the United States and Australia have not ratified it, the Kyoto Protocol's limits apply to 32 percent of global emissions. Although the United States is not participating, the Bush Administration has set a target to reduce the U.S. greenhouse gas intensity (the amount of greenhouse gas produced per unit of gross domestic product) by 18 percent by 2012. For more information, see the special Web site established by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change to mark the passing into force of the Kyoto Protocol.

As the Kyoto Protocol takes effect, researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have verified that global temperatures in 2004 made it the fourth-warmest year on record, falling behind 2002, 2003, and the record year of 1998. The researchers also anticipate that 2005 could set a new record for global temperature. According to NASA, Earth's surface now absorbs more of the Sun's energy than gets reflected back to space. That extra energy, together with a weak El Niño, is expected to make 2005 warmer than the years of 2003 and 2004, and perhaps even warmer than 1998. See the press release from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.