|Are the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen Accord effective Global Responses to Climate Change?|
Climate Change is an international issue where every nation is a stakeholder. International cooperation is needed to face the creeping effect of climate change. Recognizing this, several international agreements and mechanisms have been put into place.
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC was produced after the Earth Summit. The UNFCCC is a treaty with the main objective of stabilizing man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels that it does not interfere with the climate. It states a “common but differentiated responsibilities” based on their “specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances”.
The treaty does not set target nor limits to greenhouse emissions for countries. It does require certain countries to provide financial aid and transfer of technologies to developing countries and those more vulnerable with the threat of climate change. It also, however, does not specify the amount nor the mechanism to how this aid shall take effect.
The UNFCCC seemed to focus more on the establishment of scientific information on anthropogenic emissions per country. In fact, its priority task was to establish a greenhouse emission inventory of each country. The treaty requires each country to update their data every 3 years. The data gathered would be used in national policies on how to reduce these emissions. This very same data gathered will be later on used as a benchmark for the successor of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol
A treaty negotiated in the city it was named after, they Kyoto Protocol established more specific obligations for nations. Armed with the data established under the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol established mandatory emission limits specifically for developed nations who are recognized as the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. The objective of the Kyoto Protocol is more specific than its predecessor: to reduce greenhouse gases by 5.2% in the years 2008-2012 compared to the year 1990.
The treaty commits the parties to meet their targets through public policy in their respective countries. With updated scientific data, national emissions are strictly monitored and recorded. In addition, Kyoto Protocol states other means of meeting targets: Emission Trading; Clean Development mechanism; and Joint Implementation.
There are several criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol. First is the non-ratification of the United States, the second largest greenhouse emitter, of the treaty. Second is the effectiveness of the mechanisms in the treaty itself. The World Bank pointed out that the GHG emissions have actually increased by 24percent.
Copenhagen Accord: Kyoto Protocol Successor?
The first commitment period for the Kyoto protocol ends in 2012 and a new international agreement must be negotiated again. Clearly, there is a need for a more stringent commitment in GHG reductions.
The Copenhagen Accord is said to be the successor of the Kyoto Protocol. It is still a draft to be finished by 2015 but it has already been met with criticism. One criticism is that it does not legally-bind any party and does not commit countries to a successor of the Kyoto Protocol. It also does not set real targets for emission reduction.
Looking at the Future
An international treaty is a political tool that is needed for all countries to cooperate in reducing GHG emissions to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. However, the problem arises when countries do not comply with its contents. The treaty must compel all, especially the largest emitters to reduce their emissions.
United Nations. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 1992
United Nations. Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 1998
United Nations. Copenhagen Accord. 2009