Climate Change | Agreements

Part 1 of this Series : Climate Change | An Overview

International arrangements to combat climate change

When the dangers of climate change loomed over the world and the threat of unwarranted weather patterns, frequent floods and drought, warming of the oceans and other climate change vagaries came into the picture, the world woke up to realise its responsibilities towards nature. The first multilateral consensus gave birth to UNFCCC.


UNFCC and Climate ChangeThe first multilateral initiative taken by the 195 participating countries of the United Nations came in the shape of United Nations Summit Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio in June, 1992. It cooperated on the issue regarding what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and resulting climate change. It adopted by consensus, the first multilateral legal instrument on Climate Change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the ‘UNFCCC’. The UNFCCC secretariat support all institutions involved in the international climate change negotiations, particularly the Conference of Parties (CoP) and its subsidiary bodies.

NOTE : It should be noted that all the subsequent multilateral negotiations on different aspects of climate change, including both ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’, are being held based on the principles and objectives set out by the UNFCCC.

Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol AdoptionBy 1995, countries realised that the emission reduction provisions in the Convention were inadequate in the fight against climate change. Subsequent negotiations followed and the final document released became the Kyoto Protocol (adopted in Japan on 11th December, 1997). Due to a complex ratification process, it entered into force on 16th February, 2005.

  • It ‘commits’ the industrialised countries (37 countries) to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions based on the principles of the Convention, whereas the UNFCCC convention merely ‘encouraged’ them to do so. It only binds the industrialised countries as it finds them responsible for the current high levels of GHGs (Green House Gases).
  • This principle of punishing industrialised countries with heavy burden became the central principle of all subsequent multilateral negotiations. It is known as ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.
  • The target was set to reduce up to an average 5% emission reduction compared to 1990 levels over the five-year period of 2008-2012.
  • Kyoto Protocol introduced the concept of treating carbon dioxide as a ‘new commodity’ which means that although the developed countries are required to meet their emission reduction targets domestically, but they could also meet part of their targets through three “market-based mechanisms.
  1. Joint Implementation : Allowing countries with emission reduction target to earn emission reduction units (ERUs) from an emission reduction or emission removal project in another developed country. (Annex B Party – Annex B Party Joint Project Implementation) e,g, USA and UK enter into a Joint Implementation mechanism (Apple and British Petroleum) started a renewable energy project anywhere in the world towards their carbon commitment.
  2. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) : Allows a country with an emission-reduction commitment to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets. e.g. Apple (USA) helps in funding a solar power project in Rajasthan (India) to power nearby villages, which otherwise would have been powered through thermal power plants that would have generated 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide in atmosphere. Hence, by funding this project, it would earn USA with 4 CERs which they can use as an offset in their emission reduction targets. They can also trade such carbon credits within their own economy or even internationally.
  3. Emission Trading/ ‘cap and trade’ : Emission permit is known alternatively as carbon credit. As the emission reduction targets assign a specific amount of carbon emissions allowed to the developed countries, hence the developed countries can emit the stipulated carbon emissions or trade the saved ones in the market. The units are expressed in terms of carbon-equivalent. Each unit gives the owner the right to emit one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or other equivalent GHGs. FOR EXAMPLE – If the US has emission targets of 100 tonnes and UK has the target of 50 tonnes but US emitted 102 tonnes whereas the UK emitted 45 tonnes. UK can sell the 2 units to the US to meet its emission reduction targets.

NOTE : Failure to comply Kyoto Protocol conditions carry penalties such as losing the privilege of gaining credit through Joint Implementation projects. If a country fails to comply with the conditions, it has to adhere to the exceeded emissions + 30% additional emission reduction targets during the next period. The country could also be banned from participating in the ‘cap and trade’ programme.

Bali Meet

Bali Meet on Climate Change

The meeting of 190 countries that are party to UN treaty to climate change. Bali meet stressed on the need of the developing countries to take the responsibility of emission reduction. Bali Road map includes –

  • The Bali Action Plan (BAP)
    1. Long term cooperation and commitment for emission reductions.
    2. Enhanced international/national action on mitigation.
    3. Enhanced action on adaptation.
    4. Technology transfer and development.
  • Ad Hoc Working Group : For further commitments for developed countries (Annex 1 parties) under the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and 2009 deadline.
  • Decision on technology transfer.
  • Reducing emissions catapulted by deforestation.

Part 1 of this Series : Climate Change | An Overview

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