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The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - a series of agreements, or protocols, aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Five years later came the Kyoto Protocol, which further outlined the terms of those efforts. In doing so, it has become more famous than the original treaty.
The 169 signatories of the Kyoto Protocol (including Israel) commit to reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs and PFCs. The new target levels are only modestly lower than 1990 levels - but, due to the growth in emissions since then, that represents a much more ambitious goal.
Well-developed, industrialized countries bear the brunt of the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, facing significant financial penalties for not meeting targets. Meanwhile, still developing nations are not obligated to make the same kinds of changes to their infrastructure, as the process of industrialization that creates greenhouse gases is considered vital to those countries' ability to improve their weak economies.
Kyoto creates a financial incentive for industrialized countries to help developing countries in two ways. In the first, an industrialized country that fears it will not meet its emissions targets can purchase so-called carbon credits in developing countries (the investment from which is meant to be used by the poorer country to develop). These credits, being tradable, have become a kind of commodity in themselves, and are even being traded by investors without any connection to their environmental impact.
The second option is for industrialized countries to earn credits by investing directly in a "clean development mechanism" - a project to reduce emissions - in a developing country. Last year, Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry announced that the country's nine CDMs would bring about 15 million Euro into Israel's economy. About 40 percent of that came from just one CDM, a project at a chemical factory in the Haifa Bay area. Currently, there are 15 CDMs in Israel, and the ministry is actively seeking more prospective projects.