International Climate Change Policy

Wondering about international climate change policy in the past and present?

Several countries, scientists and environmental associations have been, for the last forty years, trying to create an international policy on global warming. Several attempts were made, with the most successful one being the Kyoto protocol. However, the general scientific consensus is that the protocol is not enough to reverse climate changing tendencies all over the globe.

As time goes by and global warming gets worse, many countries all over the world are starting to realize that global warming is truly real, and are struggling to implement policies to try to slow it down.

The most widely known international climate change policy is, without a doubt, the Kyoto protocol. The Kyoto protocol is an international treaty that aimed to obtain the commitment of industrialized countries to reduce their emissions of four greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and sulphur hexafluoride) and two other groups of gases (perfluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons), so that global warming could be fought and stopped. By 2010, the protocol has been ratified by 191 nations with 37 of them promising to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in 5.2% below the 1990 levels.

However, the Kyoto protocol wasn't signed by the world biggest polluter, the U.S., and three of the other biggest polluters, China, India and Brazil. The Bush administration dubbed the Kyoto Treaty as flawed, arguing that developing countries should also be required to reduce their emissions. The latter three countries, China, India and Brazil, did not sign the treaty because they were considered to be developing countries under the Kyoto protocol.

Such a situation might have be sufficient to render the Kyoto protocol a big failure as an international climate change policy. However, the protocol and its media coverage had helped increased global warming awareness and made the world realize that only an international treaty involving all parties can make a real difference when dealing with global warming.

With the Kyoto protocol expiring by the end of 2012, several countries are working toward a new world treaty on greenhouse emissions and global warming. It was with a new treaty in mind that the Conferences of Parties (COP)s to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change were held, with the final plenary taking place in Copenhagen in December of 2009.

The Copenhagen Accord is a document drafted at the 15th session of the COP, and though it is not a legally binding document, it sheds some light on what type of international climate change policy might follow the Kyoto protocol. This document agrees that deep cuts in greenhouse emissions must be made to stop global warming and that it would be possible only through a global response. It also agrees that developing nations must implement mitigating actions to slow carbon emissions, and that low-emitting countries should receive incentives so they would continue on their low-emitting paths. In addition, it agrees to constitute a world fund to be used to help developing countries reduce carbon emissions and develop green technologies.

To date, countries representing over 80% of global emissions have submited pledges on emission reductions under the Copenhagen Accord. China has already pledged to cut emissions between 40 and 45% by 2020, India between 20 and 25%, Brazil between 36.1 and 38.9% and Canada and the U.S. By 17%. However, the accord is not legally binding. The deadline for assessment of the accord was drafted as 6 years, by 2015.

On the other hand the E.U. has adopted measures to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Europe's international climate change policy takes Kyoto resolutions a little bit further by implementing a 20% cut in carbon emissions in 2020 (a cut that might be increased to 30% if other big polluters also agree to cut their share of emissions), a reduction of 20% in energy consumption and a 20% increase of renewable energy. This is known as the "20-20-20" targets.

As it can be seen a global and international climate change policy is not only mandatory, it is the only way by which greenhouse emissions might be effectively reduced across the globe. Though the existing global policies might not be sufficient, doors might slowly be opening for greater cooperation between countries to reduce carbon emissions and slow down global warming. The doors better open – bigger and sooner – there might be much time left.

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