What’s going on with climate change?


The capital of Peru hosted the 20th Conference on Climate Change held by the UNO, attended by more than ten thousand representatives from 195 different countries last December. After two weeks and a 25-hour extension, no definitive agreement could be reached.

Sonia García, Sustainability Consultant, explain to us in this article what is going on with the climate change. The countdown is nearly over: the COP to be held in Paris, in 2015, will be the last chance.


What is the UNFCCC?

Although climate change suddenly became a hot (excuse the pun) topic in 2009 with the Copenhagen summit, which was attended by world leaders such as US President Obama, German chancellor Merkel and Brazilian President Lula, in reality climate change negotiations started almost 20 years before. It was during the Rio Earth summit in 1992 that the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) was officially opened for signature.

This UN (United Nations) body has as its main aim to stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, CO2) in the atmosphere in order to prevent catastrophic global warming and climate change. There are currently more than 190 parties to this MEA (Multilateral Environmental Agreement) and its headquarters are located in Bonn, Germany. The members meet annually in a COP (Conference of the Parties) in order to negotiate policy towards the Convention’s main aim of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. Additionally, the parties meet periodically in Bonn, Germany, and other locations to prepare the major annual COP summits.


What is the Kyoto Protocol?

The third COP was held in Kyoto in 1997. After that meeting, the Kyoto Protocol, which established binding emission reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and European Community and created a number of mechanisms to operationalize the targets, was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. The time lapse between adoption and entry into force was caused by heavy difficulties in convincing certain parties to commit to the binding reductions.

The Protocol defines, in very general terms, two main groups: industrialized countries and developing countries. The industrialized countries agreed to reduce their CO2 emissions by different degrees, defined in the annexes of the protocol, while the developing countries would not have to do so.


Why the differentiation between these industrialized and developing countries?

Due to the historical responsibilities, one of the key topics in the climate negotiations.

The current GHG concentration in the atmosphere is mainly a consequence of all the emissions carried out by the industrialized countries since the Industrial Revolution. All these emissions helped them to reach the level of development that they enjoy nowadays, as industrial production, which carries greenhouse gas emissions as a by-product, is almost inextricably linked with the current definition of development.

Therefore, it was decided that industrialized countries would carry most of the burden in implementing solutions to the emissions problem, rather than the developing world. This principle is often referred to as ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’.

Besides emissions cuts for developed countries through the Kyoto Protocol, mechanisms were also put into place to mitigate emissions globally and to bring about sustainable development. In general, these programs and mechanisms are supported financially by the industrialized countries rather than by emerging or developing economies.


What about Lima in the way to Paris 2015?

The world is not more as it was in 1992, and the different countries that are part of the UNFCCC have different approaches and economical realities than before.

The last years, the discussions around the COPs on how to decrease emissions and who should carry them out, has been core.

Most of the countries agree on the fact that the world needs a new instrument in order to decrease CO2 emissions, but as we saw in Lima, it is difficult to define how it should look like.

There has been a strong focus on Country Driven targets, which could lead to a stronger ownership on the process but also carries the risk of diluting the historical responsibilities which remain core for a lot of developing countries. Due to Lima's outcomes Paris will have to work hard to use the historical momentum that climate change seems to be building. Hopefully it will.


Sonia Garciaby Sonia García

Sustainability Consultant

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