Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established
in 1988 by the United nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and
the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Its role is to assess
a range of information relevant for the understanding of the risk
of human-induced climate change.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) is one of
a series of international agreements and treaties on global environmental
issues that were adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio. It provides
the overall policy framework for addressing the climate change
issue and so forms the foundation of global efforts to combat
The ultimate goal of the FCCC is...
stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the
atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic
human induced interference with the climate system. Such a level
should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems
to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production
is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed
in a sustainable manner
The FCCC does not yet specify what the stabilization level should
be, with another 10 years probably needed before the uncertainties
can be largely removed and an ideal target GHG level decided upon.
The treaty promotes action against global warming in spite of
the current uncertainty on the basis that its better to be precautionary
than wait until irreversible damage is done.
The FCCC entered into force in March 1994 following ratification
by 50 of its signatory parties. In 1995 the FCCC set out some
guiding principles and general commitments for the international
response to climate change This was the first Conference of the
The Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto protocol was drawn up to set specific targets for reductions
in greenhouse gas concentrations in the global atmosphere. Emission
restrictions were made for the rich countries of annex 1 - the
biggest greenhouse gas producers, and also the countries most
able to cut emissions. Targets range from an 8 per cent cut for
the EU to a 10per cent increase for Iceland, depending on the
Annexe 1 also includes several 'transition countries', like the
Russian federation, whose economies still need some development
and are allowed 'a certain degree of flexibility'. The emission
reduction targets for these countries were laid out in Annexe
B. To become legally binding the protocol had to be ratified by
at least 55 countries which between them account for at least
55 percent of the total 1990 GHG emissions of developed countries.
Details of the Kyoto Protocol
A theme which runs through much of the Kyoto protocol is for
countries to cooperate. Sharing both advances in GHG technology
and science. The greatest achievement of the protocol so far is
to get so many countries together and talking on a central issue.
A cautionary note in the protocol is to be careful of the wider
impacts GHG reduction schemes may have. Some may be too costly
to maintain for the benefit they provide, others may cause an
unreasonable degree of disruption to the populace, industry etc.
Article 3.4 caused a great deal of argument as it did not specify
what could be constituted as a valid sink or source and what 'additional
activities' meant. The US took this article to mean that it could
count forests which already existed in its sinks, other countries
argued that this was not fair and would allow countries like the
US to do relatively little.
This is one of the so called 'flexibility mechanisms' designed
to help rich (annexe 1) countries meet their Kyoto commitment
using methods other than directly via cuts in their own emissions.
The flexibility mechanisms have caused some of the biggest arguments
about the Kyoto protocol, but it is generally agreed that without
them the size of the agreed reduction targets would have had to
be much smaller.
Annexe 1 Countries can transfer 'emissions units' between them
and implement joint initiatives to curb GHG emissions.
This kind of joint implementation could involve a coordinated
forest management scheme. However, there is concern that some
of the richer countries may use the JI to bypass cutting their
own domestic emissions by claiming the 'emissions credits' from
schemes they implement in 'transition' annexe 1 countries like
GHG emission is extremely skewed geographically. We in the rich
west produce many times more GHG per person than people in developing
countries. Though our rich countries have only about 20% of the
world's population, we use about 80 percent of the worlds resources.
The ominous thing is that our high standard of living - along
with its high GHG emissions, is what many people in developing
countries strife for. Part of Kyoto aims to tackle this big potential
increase in GHG emissions by helping developing countries to avoid
the polluting mistakes the rich countries have made and become
developed with out the usual balooning in GHG emission - sustainable
The Clean Development Mechanism
The clean development mechanism allows governments or private
entities in rich countries to set up emission reduction projects
in developing countries. They get credit for these reductions
as 'certified emission reductions (CER's). This system is different
from the Joint Implementation as it promotes sustainable development
on developing countries.
A key feature of the protocol is the agreement on the use of
some form of emissions trading. If introduced the trading system
should allow the holder of a 'credit' the emission of a specified
amount of GHG. A tradeable carbon credit unit called AAU's (Assigned
Amount Units) has been proposed which would represent one tonne
of CO2 emissions.The advantages of this trading are that it drives
countries to better efficiency in their own greenhouse gas emissions.
However, this is probably the most contentious of all the' flexibility
There is a worry that some rich countries will simply 'buy off'
the GHG they produce and not take any action themselves. The idea
of a 'cap on the amount of trading has been suggested, but has
produced even more argument'. Taken a step further, per capita
emissions have been discussed as a Utopian way to be fair to all..
Maybe one day. But these credits will only have value for reductions
made in the commitment period 2008-2012. Despite this some traders
are already speculating in 'carbon credits' and its worth all
businesses being aware of where they would stand in a world of
'carbon credits'. Farmers for instance may be sitting on 'pots
of carbon gold' in the form of the potential of their land as
a carbon sink.