UN & Climate Change : The Kyoto Protocol
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The UNFCCC has been around for over a decade now, despite the fact that
serious concern over global warming has only been popularized in recent years.
Their goal is to "begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming
and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable."
The Kyoto Protocol, controversial because it was never signed by the United States
- one of the world's largest polluters, is a part of this convention. It is different from previous resolutions made by the group in that it is a legally binding international resolution to help tackle climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol, while it is a step in the right direction, has taken criticism because of the fact that it utilizes carbon trading. This means basically that once rich nations use up their carbon credits, they can buy more from poorer countries that have lower emission rates. This is rather counterproductive if we're actually trying to build more sustainable societies, because it means rich nations can continue to emit the same amount of carbon with no real punishment. Meanwhile, countries that have had little contribution to global warming in the first place, are prevented from industrializing. However there are benefits for the poorer countries, in that they would receive payment for their
carbon credits, which they could invest in industry and infrastructure. However cheap industrialization ultimately requires emitting carbon, so you can see how this may not be the best long-term solution.
Since it's inception in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 175 nations. Thirty six of these nations plus the European Economic Commission are required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below levels specific to them.
"If nations meet their targets, they will add up to a total cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. The agreement was made binding in 2005, but there is little actual legal recourse if the nations do not meet their specified targets."
Because it is fairly obvious to all parties involved that the Kyoto Protocol is not nearly drastic enough in its targets to stop global climate change, there have been a series of re-occurring rounds of talks that discuss upping the targets to reflect the danger global warming poses. The decision to make the Kyoto Protocol stricter is referred to as the Berlin Mandate. This mandate has complicated things a bit though, as now countries that are unsure about making new, harsher targets are backing out.
Further Action on Climate Change
In September of 2007 in Bali, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and 70 other world leaders called for urgent action on climate change. Climate change, as it is a phenomenon that is and will not affect only one country, is increasingly becoming a primary concern at the UN. This page (linked below) of the UN?s website shows how many programs and departments are currently involved in climate change-related work. ? http://www.un.org/issues/m-climat.html
Supporting Climate Change Progress
In response to Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize win, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary had this to say:
"It is very encouraging that this year's Nobel Peace Prize goes to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. The IPCC has done very important work to analyze the science of climate change and to see how that can be translated into policy. Mr. Gore has dealt with the other side of the coin by popularizing science. These two go hand in hand. Today's announcement is a sign that there is growing awareness not only with regard to the science and impacts of climate change, but for the need for political action. What we need to do now is to get started on the negotiations of a post-2012 framework in Bali this year. We urgently need a new agreement or a set of agreements under the umbrella of the UN which can deliver the greenhouse gas emission reductions in line with what science is telling us is needed - 50% by 2050 - along with significant funding for adaptation."