What are Kyoto Protocol and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

The Kyoto Protocol, which came into force on 16th February 2005, is an important milestone in the efforts to control global greenhouse gases emission levels. The continued accumulation of greenhouse gases could lead to an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface. In 1988, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This group issued a first assessment report in 1990. Panel’s findings spurred governments to create the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Negotiation of the Convention was rapid and it was ready for signature at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development — more popularly known as the “Earth Summit” — in Rio de Janeiro.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

The objective of the Framework Convention was to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. The signatories decided to formulate programs to mitigate climate change, and the developed country signatories agreed to adopt national policies to return anthropogenic (changes humans have introduced to the environment as distinguished from processes which are natural) emissions of greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels.

The resulting Kyoto Protocol established emissions targets for each of the participating developed countries relative to their 1990 emissions levels:

The first and second Conference of the Parties in 1995 and 1996 agreed to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions for the period beyond 2000, and to negotiate quantified emission limitations and reductions for the third Conference of the Parties. In December 1997, representatives from more than 160 countries gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for developed nations. The targets range from an 8-percent reduction for the European Union (or its individual member states) to a 10-percent increase allowed for Iceland. The target for the United States is seven percent below 1990 levels.

Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are believed to have the potential to affect the global climate. Protocol reaffirms the commitments of the Framework Convention by all parties to formulate and implement climate change mitigation and adaptation programs. Ground-level ozone is just an air pollutant that is harmful to breathe and damaging to crops, trees and other vegetation. It is the major component of urban smog. Many urban areas tend to have high levels of “bad” ozone, but even rural areas are also subject to increased ozone levels because the wind carries ozone and pollutants that form it hundreds of miles away from their original sources.

The aggregate target is built on the carbon dioxide equivalent of each of the greenhouse gases. The agreement commits industrialized countries to cut emissions of six greenhouse gases (excluding O3and water vapor) by 5% by 2012. Rather than placing a specific target on each of the gases, the overall emissions targets for all six would be combined individual gas reductions would be translated into “CO2 equivalents” used to produce a single figure.

A provision in the agreement allows a nation to meet its reduction quota by reducing emissions from power plants and automobiles. Developed countries may also achieve their commitments by deducting the greenhouse gas emissions absorbed by carbon sinks from their gross.

The treaty, which came into force on the 16th Feb. 2005, was signed by a total of 141 countries including 30 industrialized countries but not the United States or Australia, which said that Kyoto’s burden to their economies would be too great:

141 countries that ratified the revised Kyoto Protocol on global warming had engaged in wishful thinking — in the final days before the pact’s enactment — that the United States would relent and get behind the treaty. wishful thinking, because in December the Bush administration made it abundantly clear it had no intention of formally joining this landmark international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. to come into force, at least 55 countries had to ratify the Kyoto treaty who in total must contribute to at least 55% of global carbon dioxide emissionss. When the US pulled out of the treaty in 2001 saying it would hurt the economy too much despite having been involved originally, there were fears that the 55% threshold would not be reachedd. But the 55% target was reached when Russia ratified the treaty last November and the 90- day waiting period was triggered, meaning the protocol – and its legally binding emissions targets – come into force on 16 February 2005.

Already, with only 6% of the world’s population, its emission of a fifth or more of the world’s greenhouse gases calls for more than a “trust me” justification:

Despite some ominous signs of global warming, united states have written about the effort to reduce the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere as a product of bad science. It was not mollified even when a scaled-down version of the treaty was adopted in Bonn in 2002 to reduce the opposition of the White House. Accordingly, emission reduction targets were lowered under a system that would enable countries to buy emission credits from others. In view of what most climate scientists perceive as a serious long-term threat to life on Earth as we know it, the United States would appear to be better off on the inside. From there, it could work with all the other nations to implement and even strengthen the Kyoto treaty. In the absence of any scientific evidence to the contrary, it has a solemn duty to augment domestic and international endeavors to ensure the future of the planet.

India has ratified the Kyoto Protocol on containing the emission of Green House Gases (GHG) that result in climate change with adverse consequences on food. India is not required to reduce emissions of Green House Gases under the Protocol under which basically the developed countries were required to reduce emissions of GHG by an average of 5 per cent below the 1990 level by 2012. India has consistently maintained that developed and developing countries have differentiated responsibility towards stabilizing emission of GHG. Besides upholding this position, the Kyoto Protocol enables India to take up clean technology projects with external assistance in accordance with national sustainable development priorities.

India’s decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is a reaffirmation of the country’s faith in the multilateral process for addressing global environmental problems. A central element of the Kyoto Protocol is the provision for four international mechanisms that allow for flexibility in achieving GHG emission reductions schedule for the 2008-2012 time periods.

Bubble policy:

It is generally conceived that during the first commitment period (2008-2012) the “bubble policy” will only be implemented by the EU Member States in achieving an overall reduction. It already agreed on differentiated targets within the EU “bubble” to achieve the shared reduction committeent.  International Emissions Trading (as well as the bubble policy) relies not on the transfer of reduction “credits” but rather on the trading of emission “rights”.

Emission trading not only means a cleaner world for GenNext, but also a ‘credit’ of Rs. 400 per tonne of carbon dioxides reduced from the environment:

How does this work? Carbon trading can happen in many ways. Suppose a coal based heating is replaced by a solar heating system, resulting in lower carbon emission; this generates an equivalent amount of “carbon surplus”. In trade parlance, it is recorded as carbon credit (CR). Similarly, any afforestation, reforestation efforts would absorb carbon emission. Thus, generating CRs. These CRs can be traded in the international market with more polluting entities, billed as carbon-deficit organisations.

India has stepped into the world of carbon trading. In the past few months MNCs, global and domestic consultancy houses have cut carbon trades with Indian entities, which have managed to put in place anti-emission technologies. Trades worth about Rs 2,000 crores have taken place, but industry circles feel that the country has stumbled upon a goldmine. While the immediate effect of the Protocol entering into force is not expected to be significant, countries bound by the protocol must reduce emissions to target levels during the first commitment period of 2008-12. Failure to meet targets may lead to penalties in the second commitment period and the parties may be barred from trading. It is likely that legislative and policy reform, finalized rules and guidelines and an emergence of domestic or ‘bubble’ trading schemes will increase toward the first commitment period of 2008.


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