The Gothenburg Protocol set national emission ceilings for transboundary air pollutants in 2010. These ceilings were formulated in 1999 using the Regional Air Pollution Information and Simulation (RAINS) model and national forecast data. The 2010 ceiling deadline is approaching as is a revision process which may lead to the setting of emission ceilings for 2020. This paper considers the original 1999 projections of six countries that were used within the RAINS model to inform the setting of their respective Gothenburg Protocol 2010 emission ceilings. These data are then contrast against recent inventory data and contemporary short-term forecasts out to 2010. These recent forecasts indicate that major downward shifts in the trends of pollutant emissions have been achieved, and whilst compliance challenges remain, there is a clear indication of the potential of such international agreements and their associated legislative and policy driven mechanisms. However, in a process governed by a maxim of achieving international environmental objectives at 'least-cost', the recent experience offers some valuable lessons. Specifically, in relation to the accuracy of energy projections and assumptions of other relevant variables in the modelling process. This paper considers these lessons and opens a discussion on the role of more adaptable mechanisms for the ongoing management of international agreements with long-term compliance horizons. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.