Negotiating a post-Kyoto climate regime: are we heading toward success or failure?

Climate change is considered a serious threat to sustainable development, foreshadowing adverse impacts on the environment, human health, food security, economic activity, natural resources, and physical infrastructure. Scientists agree that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earth’s atmosphere are leading to changes in the climate. In its fourth assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is stipulating that there is a more than 90% probability that human action has contributed to recent climate change and therefore precautionary and prompt action is necessary.

The international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, which was subsequently augmented in 1997 by the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. With 2008—2012 being designated as the compliance period for the Kyoto Protocol and with many countries and organizations contemplating future commitments, a worldwide effort is underway to lay out a road map for a “post-Kyoto” agreement.

Ten years ago, the U.S. Administration under President Bill Clinton was a driving force in Kyoto,Japan, to negotiate the first international agreement to limit GHG emissions under the UNFCCC. Subsequently, the impetus for the Kyoto Protocol’s market-based emissions-trading provisions came from the United States, which had to overcome stiff opposition from the European Union (EU). Yet, it is the EU that has since embraced emissions trading as the cornerstone of meeting its GHG emissions reduction targets.'

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