Kyoto takes effect today!

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Across the globe, a series of official events will be held todayto celebrate the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. After February 16, 35 industrialized countries and the European Community are legally bound to reduce their combined emissions of six major greenhouse gases during the five-year period 2008-2012 to below 1990 levels.

“The 16th of February 2005 marks the beginning of a new era in international efforts to reduce the risk of climate change,” said Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from her office in Bonn, Germany.

“The Kyoto Protocol offers powerful new tools and incentives that governments, businesses and consumers can use to build a climate-friendly economy and promote sustainable development,” she said.

To date, 141 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but only 35 countries are required to reduce their emissions at this time. Many of the other countries are voluntarily reducing their emissions for the sake of the global climate.

A special feature of the commemoration will be a Kyoto Relay of Messages, with Japanese Environment Minister Yuriko Koike serving as master of ceremonies. Starting in Kyoto at 10.00 p.m. (1.00 p.m. UTC/GMT), 10 dignitaries will exchange messages via video hook-up.

Messages will be delivered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, European Commission President Jose Barroso, the environment ministers of the UK, Canada and Germany, and Chinese and Micronesian officials.

A commemorative symposium will begin the formal observances held at the Kyoto International Conference Hall where the Protocol was originally adopted on December 11, 1997.

The symposium and the message relay will be webcast live in English and Japanese at http://www.kyoto-protocol.jp/. The webcast will also be made available after the event on-demand.

The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol will also be marked in other cities around the world. In Brussels, for example, the occasion will be celebrated by members of the European Parliament and by the European Commission.

The European Union’s executive Commission is inviting the 141 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol to a cocktail party to celebrate. The United States and Australia, who have rejected the Kyoto Protocol, are not invited.

The decision of Russia to ratify the protocol late last year, satisfied the requirement for entry into force that 55 Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention accounting for 55 percent of that group