It will be treated the same - as a developing nation The central government's commitment to a key international agreement aimed at controlling global warming has been extended to Hong Kong, raising hopes for improved cross-border efforts to tackle air pollution. Details of how the Kyoto Protocol will be applied to Hong Kong are still being worked out, but the South China Morning Post has learned that the city's obligations will be the same as those of the mainland, which has signed up as a developing country. This means Hong Kong will not face mandatory requirements to reduce greenhouse gases, but it could be spurred to adopt voluntary measures. Hong Kong's Environment, Transport and Works Bureau yesterday confirmed the news. 'The central government has agreed to extend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to Hong Kong, and is now working on the formalities,' it said. 'The Kyoto Protocol has not yet come into operation. When it does, we will assume the same level of obligation as the mainland.' The decision follows China's announcement at the Johannesburg Earth Summit last year that it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Since then, discussions have been held between Hong Kong and mainland officials. The protocol covers the emission of so-called greenhouse gases, which have been blamed for major environmental problems such as rising sea levels and long-term climate change. China's ratification signalled a commitment to taking steps to control emissions. That commitment was backed by the environment bureau in Hong Kong yesterday. The agreement has not yet come into effect, but there are hopes that the criteria which will bring it into force can be met soon if Russia decides to ratify the protocol. There is no timetable for the implementation of the protocol in Hong Kong, and it is understood the government does not intend to implement it by means of domestic legislation. The protocol, which is legally binding, requires only developed nation signatories to meet specific targets and cut greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. The Environment, Transport and Works Bureau said it would make strenuous efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong. But no voluntary reduction targets would be set before more studies had been conducted on the economic and social impact. 'Deriving a meaningful and feasible greenhouse gas target is not an easy task. A control target will have far-reaching economic and social implications. However, our commitment to reducing the emissions is strong and unambiguous,' the bureau said. Hong Kong generated about 40.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2001, accounting for about 1 per cent of China's total. The emissions, half of which are carbon dioxide, have been fluctuating over the past decade, depending on the growth of energy demand and pace of factory relocations across the border. But the government expects that emission levels will rise in the next decade and measures are being considered to address the issue. The Basic Law provides that when China enters into an international agreement, the central government decides whether it should apply to Hong Kong 'in accordance with the circumstances and needs of [the SAR]'.