The Kyoto Protocol was the first agreement defining environmental protection as a global task and simultaneously determining measures for climate protection, which are binding under international law. It was adopted on 11. December 1997 during the World Climate Summit in the Japanese city of Kyoto. The agreement, named according to the venue, is considered as a milestone of international environmental policy.
The focus of the efforts is the reduction of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrogenfluorine-hydrocarbon, Perfluorine-hydrocarbon and sulphur hexachloride (SF6). The objective was formulated that the greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced until 2012 for an average of 5,2 percent. The data from 1990 are serving as the reference value. For each country customized requirements were set. As an example it means for Germany a reduction of 21 percent, for the Netherlands a minus of six percent, Russia's null percent and for Austria a minus of 13 percent. A few countries, among them Island and Norway, may increase the emissions. Developing countries were not taken into account. From the beginning, they were not bound to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
The Kyoto Protocol should have come into effect as soon as at least 55 countries, which were responsible for 55 Percent of the greenhouse gases in 1990, are ratifying the agreement. This process lasted for several years. The USA signed the agreement in 1997. However, the Senate denied approving the agreement, since the developing countries were not obliged to reduce emission. Thus, the USA eventually withdrew from the Kyoto-Process. Only when Russia signed the agreement the Kyoto-Protocol finally came into effect on 16. February 2005. In the meantime (as per December 2009) 189 countries agreed to the Protocol. Amongst others Australia, which like the USA initially refused to ratify the agreement.