The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC; adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992). The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Confrence of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan to establish binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol will enter into force 90 days after ratification by at least 55 signatories to the UNFCCC. These signatories must also represent at least 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 from that group.
The protocol left several issues open, to be decided later by the COP. COP6 attempted to resolve these issues at its meeting in the Hague in late 2000, but was unable to reach an agreement due to disputes between the European Union on the one hand (which favoured a tougher agreement) and the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia on the other (which wanted the agreement to be less demanding and more flexible).
The prospect of the US staying outside the agreement made a number of other countries (like Japan) discuss whether they should also leave the agreement.
Opponents of the protocol insist that major pollutors such as India, Indonesia, and China as well as many other third world countries are exempted from the protocol. They argue that The United States should not adopt the protocol until those countries do.
In 2001, a continuation of the previous meeting (COP6bis) was held in Bonn where the required decisions were adopted. After some concessions, the supporters of the protocol (led by the European Union) managed to get Japan and Russia in as well by allowing more use of CO2 sinks.
COP7 was held from 29 Oct - 9 Nov 2001 in Marrakech to establish the final details of the protocol.
See also: Environmental agreements
From the CIA World Factbook:
Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
note - abbreviated as Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
opened for signature - 16 March 1998, but not yet in force
objective - to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing the national programs of developed countries aimed at this goal and by establishing percentage reduction targets for the developed countries
parties - (21) Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Maldives, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Niue, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan
countries that have signed, but not yet ratified - (69) Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vietnam, Zambia