The Protocol commits its signatories to reduce levels of greenhouse gases – chief among them carbon dioxide – believed to be increasing global warming. Around 25 billion tonnes of extra carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere annually by human activities, mainly through burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and wildfires.
Because deforestation in tropical rainforests accounts for as much as 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, finding ways to curb or halt deforestation is high on the conference’s agenda. One scheme under consideration, called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD), involves developed countries offsetting their emissions by paying developing countries for every hectare of forest they do not cut down. In order for the carbon-accounting scheme to work, systematic monitoring of forests is crucial, with tropical deforestation as a major contributor.