International treaties related to Climate change
Climate change is one of the biggest and most threatening issues the world is facing right now. There is some scary data that shows just how the rapid industrialization has changed the climate in a couple of centuries.
- Global temperature has shot up by 1.4⁰F since 1880
- CO2 levels have increased by 402.56 ppm and are at their highest in 650,000 years
- Greenland ice loss doubled between 1996 and 2005
- Global average sea level has increased by 7 inches over the last 100 years
- Arctic ice is decreasing at a rate of 13.2% per decade
- 9 out of 10 warmest years have been from the present decade
- On an average glaciers have thinned by 10 meters since 1980
The above statistics go on to show just how serious the problem is. Climate change is expected to hit the developing and underdeveloped countries the hardest.
The consequences of climate change such as higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent weather-related disasters—pose risks for agriculture, food, and water supplies. In danger are the recent gains made in pulling people out of poverty, addressing issues of hunger and disease, and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people in developing countries.
Due to the reasons and stats mentioned above it becomes imperative for all the countries to cooperate in turning this grim situation around and ensuring a resourceful yet developed world for our generations to come.
There have been some advances pertaining to the issue of climate change.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – This treaty was a watershed development as it laid down the framework on how the international protocols and agreements to curb greenhouse emissions will be negotiated and adopted. It was agreed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The main objective of UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse concentration to a level which prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The parties to this convention meet annually at the Conferences of Parties (COP’s) to discuss the progress made on tackling climate change.
UNFCCC has 165 signatories at present. Article 3(1) of the Convention states that all parties should take steps to address the climate change on common but differentiated responsibilities and that developed countries must lead the way in addressing climate change. It was decided that the extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country
Parties of their commitments under the convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties. It was also decided that Annex 1 parties (developed countries) have to stabilize their emissions at 1990 levels by year 2000.
Kyoto Protocol – At the first Conference of Parties it was decided that the target for Annex1 parties to stabilize emission levels at 1990 levels was not adequate. The protocol was adopted in 1997. This protocol set limits to greenhouse emissions which are binding under international law. This protocol was based upon common but differentiated responsibilities as it puts the obligation on developed countries to lead the way in tackling climate change as these nations are historically responsible for current greenhouse levels in the atmosphere. There have been two commitment periods in this protocol one was from 2015-2012 and the second one runs from 2012-2020.
Interestingly, US withdrew its support to the protocol in 2001 at the initial stages of the first commitment period. Canada also withdrew and is not participating in the second commitment period.In the second commitment round – which was agreed in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment to the protocol – 37 countries have binding targets of which only 7 have ratified.
Although some countries and regions have met or exceeded their goal related to carbon emissions, this reduction has been offset by the increase in emissions of two major polluters – US and China. Note that India and China have not ratified the Kyoto protocol and that is one of the reasons that US provide for not ratifying the protocol.
Paris Agreement – It is an agreement within the ambit of UNFCCC and was adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015 but is not yet been enforced. The main aims of the agreement are
1. To hold the level of increase in temperature to well below 2⁰C of pre-industrial level and to
pursue an effort to limit it below 1.5⁰C;
2. To augment the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and increase climate
resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten
3. To make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and
The main development from the Paris meet was the announcement of Nationally Determined contribution.Nationally Determined Contributions – In NDC’s individual countries will be given the prerogative to set their own level of contribution to the goal. The levels of emissions pledged by the countries in the agreement have been settled as initial nationally determined contributions.
The reports relating to achievement of these self-set goals have to be submitted to UNFCCC secretariat every 5 years. There is no mechanism in place to force a country to set NDC’s and also there is no enforcement if a set target in NDC is not achieved. Only a name and shame system will be followed in case a country fails to achieve its targets. Two countries can also provide a cooperative NDC.
Other major international treaty on Climate Change is the Montreal Pact. This treaty was signed in 1989 and has 46 signatories and 197 ratifiers. The aim of this treaty is to reduce the emission of gases which deplete the ozone layer surrounding the Earth.
This treaty has been appreciated across biases with Kofi Annan quoted as saying that “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date has been the Montreal Protocol”. The Ozone hole above the Antarctic has been slowly recovering.
The predictions tell that the ozone levels will return to 1980 levels somewhere between 2050 and 2070 which is again a positive development. The two Ozone treaties have been ratified by 197 parties which include 196 states and European Union making them the first universally ratified treaties in United Nations’ history.