The Fight Against Climate Change - Issues and Deadlines
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, enlisted the international community (189 States are Parties to this convention) in the fight against the enhancement of the greenhouse effect, specifically by establishing a general objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that would prevent any dangerous, human-induced disturbance to the climate system. Detected in the 1980s, this phenomenon is considered to be more and more worrying by the successive reports submitted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the fourth edition of which will be published in 2007.
The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 and currently ratified by 161 countries, reinforces the provisions of the convention. In particular, it sets binding targets for industrialized countries - what the Treaty calls “Annex 1” countries - to cut their GHG emissions by an average total of 5%. In this context, France is bound by both a collective target of an 8% reduction (“European bubble”) with its European Union partners, and an individual commitment to stabilize its emissions, which must, in 2012, be the same as in 1990. Developing countries, exempt at this stage from binding targets, are encouraged to reduce their emissions, in line with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” agreed to in Rio in 1992. In order to reach their targets, the industrialized countries must therefore implement national greenhouse gas emission reduction policies. Should such policies turn out to be inadequate, they may resort to three mechanisms:
“Emission permits”, which allow industrialized countries to buy and sell emission rights from each other;
“Joint implementation” (JI), which allows a developed country and a so-called “transition economy” country with commitments to control or cut their GHG emissions during the first implementation period of the Kyoto Protocol to make investments aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside their national territory and to take advantage of the emission credits generated by reductions obtained in this manner;
The “clean development mechanism” (CDM), similar to the previous mechanism, except that the investments are made by a developed country with quantitative reduction commitments under the Protocol in a country that is not subject to such commitments, i.e. principally in a developing country.
The Marrakech Accords, adopted in November 2001, stipulate:
Helping developing countries to deal with the consequences of climate change and endeavouring to minimize the potential negative effects of measures taken in industrialized countries to fight against the worsening of the greenhouse effect. To this end, three new funds were created in Marrakech in November 2001: the special fund for climate change, the fund for least developed countries, and the Kyoto Protocol fund for adjustment assistance. Furthermore, through a joint political declaration in 2001, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland have agreed to increase their support to developing countries by 410 million dollars a year (including 40.8 million dollars for France), beginning in 2005 (See the “Africa and Climate” file in the “Additional Information” section);
Taking carbon sequestration sinks into consideration: these accords establish the procedures for recognizing afforestation, deforestation and sequestration activities. Since the ninth Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (December 2003), carbon sinks can be included in the CDMs;
Creating a compliance audit of the obligations assumed by the States: these accords establish the guidelines for the dissemination of information related to compliance with the obligations of the Protocol (quality of emission inventories, organization of review teams, recognition of quantities allocated, registers) and an audit of commitments, along with penalties for countries that have not fulfilled their obligations (adoption of a compliance action plan, suspension of the right to trade emissions permits).
With the receipt, on 18 November 2004, of instruments of ratification from Russia by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol came into effect on 16 February 2005. Since this date:
30 industrialized countries, including France, are legally required to reach the quantitative reduction or restriction targets for their greenhouse gas emissions.
The international carbon trade market, which allows industrialized countries to buy and sell emissions credits among themselves, has become a legal and practical reality.
The clean development mechanism (CDM) is now being genuinely implemented, thereby encouraging investments in LCDs that are concerned about limiting their greenhouse gas emissions.
Established in 2001, the Kyoto Protocol fund for adjustment assistance helps LCDs to deal with the negative effects of climate change.
Only two industrialized countries have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol: Australia and the United States, which have started a parallel initiative to the Rio Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, called the “Asia-Pacific initiative”, the stated objective of which is to accelerate the deployment of new, low carbon technologies or technologies that are capable of reducing the emissions from the use of fossil energy. China, India, South Korea and Japan have joined this initiative.
The Montreal Conference (28 November-9 December 2005): it brought together the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and, for the first time, the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. Anticipated as being extremely delicate, in light of the wide range of positions between industrialized countries, developing countries and LDCs, this conference proved to be a political success, to which the determination of the European Union contributed considerably.
The approach of the Kyoto Protocol, founded on a quantified reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and, along with this, the establishment of a carbon market through the creation of obligations and incentives to cut emissions (approach called “cap and trade”), was reinforced legally in Montreal, with the formal adoption of the institutional framework developed in recent years (flexibility mechanisms) and the establishment of the protocol compliance system.
The Montreal Conference also laid the groundwork required for discussions on the future system after 2012, in terms of both the Protocol and, more broadly, the Convention. This outcome makes it possible to envisage the continuation of market mechanisms after 2012 and to lessen the punishing uncertainty for the implementation of concrete actions and investment decisions (public and private) requiring long-term visibility. It has been made possible specifically by changes in the main emerging countries, aware that the sustainability of their economic development also involves tackling environmental issues voluntarily. The rallying of the main developing countries and the United States behind the informal dialogue process in place under the Convention completes this political consensus.