Knowledge about the science, politics and policies related to climate change is key to understanding climate change and the international community’s response to it. This extensive glossary is a valuable resource for those looking to get a grip on key climate change concepts, policies and initiatives.
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)
Antarctic Ice Sheet
Anthropogenic Climate Change
Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon Dioxide Equivalent
Carbon Offsets (compliance, voluntary)
Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs)
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
Conference of the Parties (COP) Meetings
Contraction and Convergence
Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference
European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)
Group of Eight (G8)
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
International Environmental Agreements (IEAs)
Millennium Development Goals
Non Nation-State Actors (NNSAs)
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
Parts per million/parts per billion
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)
Summary for Policymakers
Targets and Timetables
UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
UN Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE, Stockholm 1972)
UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
Adaptation generally refers to the process of modifications or adjustments in behavior, aspects of operations, or rules in order to respond to changes in the external environment. In the context of climate politics the term is used mostly in climate change discussions and refers to the changes that societies are supposed to make in order to respond to the negative impacts of unavoidable climate change. It is also used in discussions that focus on the tendency as well as the limit of the earth’s natural system and the living organisms to adjust in ways that can accommodate the process of (natural and human-induced) climate change without resulting in catastrophic consequences. When the issue of global climate change became a major political topic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the main focus was on mitigation— that is how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere in order to prevent the incidence of human-induced climate change. The focus on mitigation is clearly reflected in the wordings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has as its objective the need to ‘stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system,’ although the word adaptation was subsequently mentioned in a number places in the Convention text. Adaptation received less attention in the early years mainly because Parties to the Convention requested more certainty on the effects of and vulnerability to climate change on different natural and social systems. In 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that it was reasonably certain that climate change was already happening with considerable negative effects on several ecosystems and human settlements around the world. The major effects were said to be the general reduction in crop yield in most tropical regions, increased flooding of human settlements, water scarcity and the increase in water borne and vector-borne diseases such as malaria due to drastic changes in precipitation patterns. Those identified to be mostly vulnerable to the negative impact of unavoidable climate change were the Third Word countries especially the Least Developing Countries (LDC) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The panel called for attention to be given to adaptation as well as mitigation in the global effort to tackle climate change. Since then a huge number of studies from both public and private organizations have been conducted to ascertain the scale of impact and the vulnerabilities of various ecosystems and human communities to climate change. Most of these results show that the developing countries which contribute little to climate change are the ones that are most vulnerable to the negative consequences. Subsequently the developing countries have been pushing for adaptation to be accorded a priority in the scheme of things in the United Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2004, a plan of action on adaptation and response measures was adopted as part of the responses to this campaign. There have been also other programs including the establishment of a special needs fund for the Least Development Countries (LDC Fund) and a five-year programme of work on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation all designed to help the developing countries to respond the impacts of climate change.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines adaptation as an ‘adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.’ Articles 4.3 and 4.4 of the UNFCCC mandate that new and ‘additional’ resources must be provided for vulnerable countries to ‘adjust’ to these climate stimuli. While it has been in the planning since the development of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 in order to provide a mechanism through which adaptation activities are funded, the ‘Adaptation Fund’ came into being in 2007. Monies are generated through a levy of 2% from Clean Development Mechanism projects. Over half a million Certified Emissions Reductions (CER) credits from CDM projects have been set aside for this Fund. In setting it up in this way, though, the size of the Adaptation Fund is dependent upon the volume of CDM projects taking place. In 2009, the Adaptation Fund was reported to have raised approximately US $200– 300m. per year. However, many academic scholars—including a number of authors in this volume, such as Lemos, Boyd, Parks and Roberts—claim that these funds are a mere fraction of what will be needed to meet adaptation demands in the years to come. As Lemos and Boyd have pointed out in Chapter 6, a 2007 UNFCCC assessment puts the need in the developing world between $28 billion and $67 billion a year by the year 2030. This is a relatively conservative estimate compared to many others, such as those made by the UN Development Program ($86 billion/year) and Oxfam ($50 billion/ year). As of the time of writing in 2009, the fund remains non-operational due to debates within the supervisory 16-country Adaptation Fund Board over dissemination of these monies. Moreover, at the time of writing, just under half of the amount of money promised to the Adaptation Fund has actually been delivered. Chapters 3 and 6 discuss the politics of these processes. Also, in June 2009 United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown was the first Annex I/B head of state to put forward a specific plan to allocate funding to developing countries for climate adaptation. He proposed to commit funding beginning in 2013, rising to $100 billion a year by 2020.
Additionality is a term associated with the generation of funds for projects that help human societies adapt to climate change, particularly in the developing world. Articles 4.3 and 4.4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change mandate that new and ‘additional’ resources must be provided for vulnerable countries to adapt to ‘actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects’. Generally, the requirement of ‘additionality’ refers to a criterion that monetary funds are allocated beyond ‘business-as-usual’ project activities. Projects that meet ‘additionality’ requirements are, then, those that make emissions reductions in addition to those that otherwise would have occurred anyway. Explicitly, the additionality requirement is part of the Adaptation Fund, where money is generated through a levy of 2% from Clean Development Mechanism (Article 12) projects. The generation of funding by way of additionality also marks the connection between mitigation activities and adaptation projects. Beyond the UN Adaptation Fund, funds are assembled through new multilateral or bilateral development projects, or Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). In practice, it is difficult to agree upon what endeavors meet the ‘additionality’ requirements. This is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine what projects are specifically climate adaptation projects and, therefore, what funding is specifically additional climate adaptation funding. Adaptation programmers can include initiatives such as dam projects and dykes, but scholars—such as Lemos and Boyd in Chapter 6 of this volume—caution that the additionality stipulation creates the conditions where climate and development projects become unnecessarily segregated. They comment that complex initiatives like income diversification schemes may become de-prioritized, as simple measures like the introduction of drought resistant crops can be more clearly linked to adaptation strategies. Moreover, they write, ‘We suggest that because climate change is one among many stresses that define the vulnerability of people and ecosystems in less developed regions, it makes little sense to prioritize additionally over the need to integrate across policies to adapt to these multiple stresses [ ... ] Through additionality, adaptation policy at the global level divides and circumscribes processes that are indivisible at the local level and, in practice, disables the opportunities for complementarities and synergies in adapting to climate change’. Thus ‘additionality’ is one particularly contentious issue ongoing, in the politics of climate change.
Agenda 21 was one of four major products of the 1992 Earth Summit (the other three were the Rio Declaration, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). At the time, Agenda 21 was touted as a ‘blueprint’ for sustainable development in the 21st century. It consisted of a Preamble and then major sections on social and economic dimensions, conservation and management of resources, strengthening the role of major groups, and means of implementation. Going into the Rio Summit (UNCED) in 1992, the Parties had already agreed on 98% of this document. The points that remained under discussion involved consumption and population issues. This document also promoted the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to fund sustainable development initiatives.
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)
AOSIS is a coalition of 43 small islands and low-lying coastal developing countries, founded in 1990. These countries represent 20% of the UN membership. These countries have come together through common interests of development challenges and environmental concerns. Within the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations, AOSIS acts as a lobbying group to raise the profile of issues such as vulnerability and adaptation funding. In addition, the AOSIS nations are logically concerned about the impact of sea-level rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has assessed that the global average sea level has risen 8 inches (20.5 cm) since 1900 and scientists predict a rise of another 4–37 inches (10–94 cm) by 2100. Many poorer island nations are not financially capable of building large dykes and levee systems to guard against gradual rises as well as increasingly threatening storm events. AOSIS members have called for more severe cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in order to limit this sea-level rise. In particular, citizens of member nations such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands risk becoming the first wave of ‘climate refugees’. Thus, AOSIS has been an active group to challenge the framing of issues from those focusing predominantly on economic costs to issues of environmental justice and distribution of impacts. The AOSIS member states are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Cook Islands, Cuba, Comoros, Cyprus, Dominica, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Kiribati, Jamaica, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The four observers to AOSIS are American Samoa, Guam, Netherlands Antilles and the United States Virgin Islands.
This is a term that refers to several types of fuel advocated for use in transportation because they are less polluting than fossil fuels. The refining of petrol and diesel from crude petroleum is not a sustainable technology. The principal alternative fuels for road vehicles are: natural gas; liquefied petroleum gas (LPG); ethanol derived from wood, corn or sugar; rape methyl ester; hydrogen, preferably produced using electricity from solar energy; and methanol from natural gas or coal. Some produce lower carbon dioxide emissions than conventional fuels but are more expensive. These remain less desirable, in environmental terms, than renewables: the best choice depends on which of the environmental problems associated with burning fuel is most severe in each case. For example, methane in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) has significant environmental advantages over diesel for large vehicles—such as buses, road sweepers and refuse collection trucks/lorries— that make frequent stops in urban areas. CNG-powered vehicles produce few particulates such as PM10s and the hydrocarbons they emit have less than half the ozone-forming potential of those from diesel fuel.
Antarctic Ice Sheet
The Antarctic ice sheet is the blanket of ice that covers the Antarctic continent. It forms the southern ice cap, which is maintained by snow accumulation and the release of icebergs into the Antarctic Ocean. The Western Antarctic ice sheet (containing about 10% of the world’s ice), in particular, is highly vulnerable to global climate change and scientists are not sure how the ice sheet will respond (the Eastern Antarctic sheet, which is vastly larger, is more stable, as it rests within a bowl of mountains). A warmer world could produce more precipitation, including increased snowfall, causing the ice sheet to become thicker. However, increased air and ocean temperatures are also likely to have a melting effect, which could cause sea levels to rise dramatically, flooding many small island states and other low-lying areas. Sea levels from global climate change could rise by as much as 1 m by 2100. There is evidence that the Western Antarctic ice sheet has melted significantly in the geologically recent past, having a dramatic impact on sea levels and global climate. Alarming signs of instability are already evident in the west, particularly on the ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula. Such ice shelves are important in maintaining the stability of the ice sheet itself, as they shield the land-based ice from direct contact with the melting influence of the ocean.
Anthropogenic Climate Change
Anthropogenic climate change is changes in the climate that are attributed to various human activities. This term comes from the Greek root word ‘anthropos,’ which means ‘man.’ Anthropogenic climate change is also often referred to as the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect.’ Anthropogenic sources include fossil fuel burning (primarily coal, gas and oil) and land use change. Current heavy reliance on carbon-based sources for energy in industry and society has led to significant human contributions to climate change, noted in particular through increases in temperature as well as sea-level rise. This particular period of time has been referred to by Paul Crutzen as the ‘Anthropocene Era.’ In the climate science community, there has emerged a consensus that human activity has significantly driven climate change in the past two centuries, and that climate change since the Industrial Revolution has not been merely the result of natural fluctuations. Detection (of climate change) and attribution (to human activities) research has improved significantly, particularly over the last decade of work. For many decades, climate scientists have stated with increasing confidence that humans play a distinct role in changes in the climate. Prominently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a group of climate scientists and academic researchers from around the world—has noted this consensus. This has also been supported by numerous science organizations.
The atmosphere is an envelope of gases surrounding the earth and bounded by gravitational attraction. The global atmosphere extends 500 km above the surface of the earth. It is a mixture of gases constituting air, which is generally composed of 78.1% nitrogen (as N2), 20.9% oxygen (as O2), 0.9% argon, 0.03% carbon dioxide (CO2), and a number of trace gases (such as CH4 at 700 parts per billion and nitrous oxide at 275 parts per billion) (see parts per million/parts per billion). The atmosphere is a very dynamic and rapidly changing physical system. Along with the ocean, it drives the climate system and distributes energy throughout the planet. The troposphere is the lowermost atmospheric region, from the earth’s surface to 12 km. It is a well- mixed region of the atmosphere and also a turbulent one. Here is where weather systems of clouds, surface winds and water vapor circulate around the planet. Next is the tropopause, at about 12 km, the area between the troposphere and stratosphere. Jet streams drive weather in this region and air- planes often take advantage of this area of general stability. The next layer is the stratosphere, which is between 12 km and 50 km above earth. This is followed by the mesosphere, the thermosphere and the exosphere.
This refers to the beginning of a two-year process leading to a potential agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009 for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol (see Copenhagen Conference). It is also known as the ‘Bali Action Plan’. This plan was assembled at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia in December 2007. Essentially, this document pledged for coordination and cooperation in working towards an agreement for ‘deep’ reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The term ‘deep’ did not get translated into an actual percentage of reductions, however. Also contained in this action plan was mention of the need to address adaptation measures in order to protect citizens, particularly in developing countries, against present and future climate impacts, forest protection by ‘policy approaches and positive incentives’, as well as the transfer of clean technologies from industrialized countries to developing nations.
This is the name of a prominent decision that was reached at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) first Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting, held in Berlin, Germany in 1995. It arose from country delegates’ concerns about their ability to meet the terms in the UNFCCC. The Berlin Mandate declared that there should be a two-year Analytical and Assessment Phase (AAP). This mandate also established that there were ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ that different countries have in fulfilling UNFCCC obligations. In practice, this exempted non-Annex I countries (non-industrialized countries) from participating in the first phase of explicit commitments of targets and timetables for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This Berlin Mandate was seen to be codified recognition of the difference between ‘luxury’ and ‘survival’ emissions between countries, as well as a declaration that made explicit some nascent concerns over justice, vulnerability and differentiated impacts from anthropogenic climate change. The US Senate reacted to this proposal by passing the July 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution, stating that they would not ratify a treaty without the full participation of developing nations in this first phase of commitments. Upon its passage 95–0, Resolution co-author Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska) proudly declared, ‘The Byrd-Hagel Resolution is a complete rejection of the Berlin Mandate’. This is seen as one of the early battles waged in an ongoing war (and impasse) over rights and responsibilities of greenhouse gas emissions and reductions between the Global North and Global South.
This is the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, set up by the General Assembly of the UN in 1983. It was named after Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Norwegian Prime Minister who chaired the body. The brief of the Commission was to draw up a global agenda for change and, in particular, to devise a strategy for achieving sustainable development for the year 2000 and beyond. This commission put forward a broad definition for ‘sustainable development,’ which has been widely adopted. The report stated that sustainable development is ‘development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’. This definition has been subject to a wide range of interpretations. The report also urged the replacement of chemically dependent agriculture by sustainable agriculture and that there be a shift from export crops to food crops for local consumption. It recommended that ‘soft’ energy systems (renewable energy plus energy conservation measures) should be adopted, describing them as the best way towards a sustainable future. The report also urged industry to assess the potential impact of new technologies before their employment, so that their production, use and disposal do not put too much stress on environmental resources. The report set out seven goals for the future: to revive economic growth; to change the quality of growth; to meet essential needs for jobs, food, energy, water and sanitation; to ensure a sustainable level of population; to conserve and enhance the resource base; to re-orientate technology and management risk; and to merge environment and economics in decision-making.
Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) most commonly refers to the capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere from large industrial sources, then compressing, transporting and injecting it into underground geological formations or the deep ocean for long-term storage. At present, it remains mostly a theoretical proposal for mitigating carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels— coal, oil, natural gas—which in turn contribute to climate change. CCS has also been referred to when discussing some other emergent sequestration techniques (see carbon sequestration). Among them is ‘air capture’, where carbon dioxide is removed or ‘scrubbed’ from the lower troposphere and stored indefinitely in geological formations; also there is ‘biochar’, where biological material—such as plankton from the ocean—is buried underground permanently. Proponents of CCS techniques tout them as feasible first steps towards decarbonization of industry. However, critics consider them to be far-fetched distractions from more significant and fundamental commitments to carbon dioxide emissions reductions from industry. At present, governments such as that of the United Kingdom are discussing the mandated installment of CCS technology with all-new coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, the governments of Germany and the USA have been funding pilot projects to develop this geoengineering strategy. These are reported to potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90% from power plants fitted with CCS. Furthermore the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has mentioned the mitigation gains that can be achieved through the integration of CCS methods among a suite of initiatives in the coming decades. However, due to a number of ongoing and unresolved challenges with CCS implementation on a large and coordinated scale—for example, there are concerns of leakage from long-term storage into the atmosphere thereby reducing the intended mitigation gains—CCS remains a contentious initiative.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a chemical compound made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. While it is a trace gas in the atmosphere in terms of volume, it is of central interest in atmospheric chemistry due to its capacity to trap incoming solar radiation in the atmosphere. For this reason, over time it has become known as a greenhouse gas (GHG), where increases of CO2 into the atmosphere cause climate changes, which include increases in temperature or global warming. Other greenhouse gases include Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), tropospheric ozone (O3), halocarbons (CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs) and water vapor (H2Ov). CO2 is the principle GHG that contributes to climate change and global warming, as increases in CO2 have contributed most to climate change compared to other greenhouse gases over time. CO2 is part of larger carbon cycles on earth. All living things are composed primarily of carbon, so the cycling of carbon through the various spheres can provide indications of the health of the planet. Unlike other GHGs, CO2 is not broken down or destroyed through chemical reactions. Aside from time spent in the atmosphere mainly as CO2, carbon also moves through the biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. For example, atmospheric CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere and up into the biosphere through photosynthesis. The carbon can then stay in this ‘reservoir’ until the forest dies and decomposes, is cut down, or is burned. At this time, carbon is then released again to the atmosphere mainly as CO2. There are many reasons why CO2 is so influential in climate change; among them, CO2 has a long ‘residence time’, where emissions can stay in the atmosphere for up to 200 years. For instance, emissions from a 1911 Model T Ford are potentially in the atmosphere today. This also means that even if all CO2 emissions were halted today, declines in atmospheric CO2 would only begin after the CO2 cycled out of the atmosphere into another reservoir. Furthermore, CO2 is the greenhouse gas changing most directly because of human activities. It is important to understand that there are also natural sources of CO2 emissions. These include plant decomposition and volcanic activity, which contribute to a baseline ‘natural greenhouse effect’ that makes the world habitable. Without them, the earth would on average be about 60°F (15.6°C) cooler and the planet would be covered with ice. With this natural greenhouse effect, humans have been able to live and enjoy benefits such as forest and food growth. After time in the atmosphere, CO2 cycles into a ‘sink’. For example, carbon is taken up in the biosphere through photosynthesis in forests. The carbon can stay in this ‘reservoir’ until the forest dies and decomposes, is cut down, or is burned. Measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentration over time show that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have now risen to approximately 385 parts per million (ppm) (see parts per million/parts per billion).
Carbon Dioxide equivalent
Carbon dioxide equivalent (CDE or CO2e) is a metric designed to enable more clear comparison between greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential and radiative forcing, as compared to carbon dioxide. These then incorporate the comparative heat capacities and residence time in the atmosphere for various greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. This comparison then provides a combined expression of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (in parts per million) (see parts per million/parts per billion).
There have emerged many capitalist economic ideas that have gained salience in climate policy circles regarding anthropogenic climate change solutions. For example, market-based greenhouse gas (GHG) permits to be bought and sold have been introduced in places such as the European Union in order to create an explicit cost to pollute. Furthermore, investments by companies in renewable energy technologies in countries of the Global South can earn ‘credits’ for GHG emissions reductions, and thereby spur technological shifts in energy production in developing countries. These economic initiatives have been incorporated in the Kyoto Protocol as ‘flexible mechanisms’ in order to create more opportunities to achieve emissions reductions. However, a number of participants have cautioned that this could lead to the over- whelming privatization and commodification of the ‘global public good’ of our shared atmosphere. Carbon markets are essentially trading systems through which countries, businesses and other entities can buy or sell units of GHG emissions, most commonly carbon dioxide and methane.
Carbon Offsets (compliance, voluntary)
Carbon offsets are market tools designed to facilitate the mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. Many consider these instruments appealing because they enable a more ‘flexible’ and cost-effective approach to achieving emissions reductions as an individual, firm or country can pay for emissions reductions in places potentially very distant to the source of emissions. Due to uniform mixing of GHGs in the atmosphere, the global effects of GHG emissions provide an opportunity for global systems of carbon offsetting on more localized activities, such as transportation and electricity use. There are two principle markets of carbon offsets: compliance and voluntary. Compliance carbon offset markets are large-scale industrial and government-dominated systems. For example, the Clean Development Mechanism—established in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol—represents a market in compliance carbon offsets. Voluntary carbon offset markets are smaller-scale endeavors, where individuals and firms voluntarily participate. For instance, an individual or company may pay for a group to plant trees in India to offset emissions from air travel. Offset projects can manifest in a range of initiatives, such as wind farm development, reforestation projects, methane capture or biomass energy development. These carbon offsets provide opportunities to counteract possibly carbon-intensive lifestyle choices. Proponents posit that this illuminates some strengths of the financial instrument: carbon offsets raise awareness about anthropogenic climate change and provide an opportunity for many to offset their GHG emissions in an accessible way. However, in so doing, critics argue that they lessen the pressure to make more substantive lifestyle changes, and provide emotional salve to otherwise unsustainable behaviors. Nonetheless, carbon offsets represent an increasingly utilized market instrument to mitigate GHG emissions contributing to anthropogenic climate change.
Carbon sequestration is a geoengineering technique that removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it for the long term in forests, soils, oceans, or underground in depleted oil and gas reservoirs, coal seams and saline aquifers. These aim to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the atmosphere. Carbon can be sequestered in a variety of ways, such as capturing carbon dioxide during the processes of petroleum refining and power generation. Carbon can also be sequestered through projects such as ‘air capture’ and ‘biochar’ (see Carbon Capture and Storage).
As discussions on how to tackle the challenge of global warming become more intense and widespread, an increasing number of people are beginning to advocate the imposition of direct taxes on businesses and private individuals to reflect their emissions of greenhouse gases. Across the world, there are already several types of energy taxes that are mostly weighted against producers. There are equally a growing number of green taxes that are designed to encourage people to behave in an environmentally benign manner. The idea of asking companies and individuals to pay directly for the emissions of climate-warming gases in the form of taxes is a relatively new one, but none the less gathering momentum. Already the government of the city of Québec in Canada has announced plans to introduce a carbon tax under which companies will pay an extra 0.8 cents on every liter of gas sold. The money raised from this tax will be used to fund green projects such as the installation of renewable energy facilities. Similarly, in New Zealand, the government has announced plans to introduce an extra cost for using electricity, petrol and gas as part of the efforts to limit the use of greenhouse gas emissions and generate funds for climate-friendly projects. In Europe, the European Union (EU) has considered the option of imposing a carbon tax among its 27 member states to complement the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme and other national greenhouse emissions reduction policies. There is every indication that carbon tax would be one of the more popular instruments on the list of policies that could be used by governments in combating the challenge of climate change.
Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)
CERs are credits that have been generated through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board, through Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol. CERs can be banked, bought and sold through the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme in order for Annex I/B Parties to comply with their emissions reduction targets. CERs can be issued for projects that meet two basic criteria: first, they must address sustainable development needs of the host developing country; and second the projects must contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by Kyoto Protocol stipulations. A CER represents one tonne of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions achieved through an approved CDM project.
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
The CDM is defined in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, as a ‘flexible mechanism’ to assist with the implementation of greenhouse gas emissions mitigation objectives. The CDM essentially is a tool designed for developed countries designated in Annex I/B in the Kyoto Protocol to earn certified emissions reduction credits (CERs) when they invest in projects in developing countries that meet two basic criteria: they must address sustainable development needs of the host developing country, and the projects must contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by Kyoto Protocol stipulations. Furthermore, for CDM projects to be approved for the purposes of Kyoto Protocol credited emissions reductions, the projects must be determined to meet additionality objectives. Additionality, as stated above, is the concept where emissions reductions from CDM projects are deemed to be ‘additional’ to emissions reductions that otherwise would have occurred anyway. Whether a project has or has not fulfilled these criteria is decided upon by a CDM Executive Board, which inevitably wields a significant amount of power through interpretation. Their decisions are guided by terms established in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Overall, this more ‘flexible’ approach to achieving emissions reductions is argued to be more cost effective, and thus more appealing, than straightforward and mandated emissions reductions in the Annex I/B countries themselves.
Conference of the Parties (COP) Meetings
The entry into force of the UNFCCC set forth future Conference of the Parties meetings (COPs) to delineate more specifics of the treaty. Most prominent is the third Conference of the Parties (COP3) that took place in Kyoto, Japan and produced the Kyoto Protocol. This Protocol outlines more specific targets and timetables for Annex I/II Parties to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. To date, the Kyoto Protocol has been signed by 140 countries and, despite US non-ratification, entered into force in February 2005.
Contraction and Convergence
Contraction and convergence is a concept that refers to a long-term strategy for reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a process where overall GHG emissions are reduced (contraction) while emissions reductions from the Global South would be less aggressive than those of the Global North through per capita allocation, so as to enable development in the Global South as well as flexibility for a transition from carbon-based energy sources to renewable energy sources. This proposal has gained support from a number of policy participants with a particular sensitivity to issues of climate justice and equality. Eventually, all emissions entitlements would converge at an equal per capita emissions level, dependent upon particular geography and political economy.
Copenhagen Conference (updated October 28, 2011)
The Copenhagen Conference or UN Conference on Climate Change took place in the Danish capital in December 2009. This was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15). The conference sought to operationalize the Bali roadmap agreed in Indonesia in 2007, and agree to a binding framework for climate change mitigation efforts beyond 2012. However, what did emerge was the ‘Copenhagen Accord,’ a statement of principles endorsing the Kyoto Protocol, and stating that “enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required to…reduc[e] vulnerability and build.. resilience in developing countries,especially in those that are particularly vulnerable.” In addition, the Copenhagen Accord declared that on mitigation, developed countries (Annex I Parties) would “commit to economy-wide emissions targets for 2020.” January 31, 2010, was an initial deadline set under the Accord for countries to submit emissions reductions targets, however UNFCCC Secretary Yvo De Boer later clarified that this was a “soft deadline.” Thus, countries have continued to submit pledges past this deadline.
Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference
This term ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’ appears prominently in the objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 2 states that coordinated international efforts must be made to ‘achieve stabilization of the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. There remain many contentious discussions regarding what threshold will constitute this; while some argue that it has already been crossed, others place this threshold at 450 parts per million (ppm) or 560 ppm (a doubling of pre-industrial levels) of CO2 in the atmosphere (see parts per million/parts per billion). It may actually prove to be a distraction to determine exactly what level of anthropogenic interference constitutes ‘dangerous’. However, the concept has mobilized public and policy attention for efforts to decarbonize the 21st century economy and society and is, therefore, a helpful heuristic.
Emissions trading is a market-based approach used by governments to control or achieve reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In an emissions trading scheme, the government, in close consultation with companies, scientists and other stakeholders such as environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) sets a limit on the amount of a pollutant that should be emitted within a given time period. After setting the limit (or cap), governments distribute the total amount of emissions permissible among companies and other emitting entities in the form of allowances or credits. Entities that emit more than their allocated allowance (credits) are expected to buy emission credits from those that pollute less. Conversely, entities that use less than their allocated quota are allowed to sell their credits to those that pollute more. This way the government is able to control the total amount of emissions of a given pollutant within the system, while allowing companies and other polluting entities the flexibility to cut emissions in the ways that best suit them. There are many emissions trading systems around the world. Some of the best known include the US Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) trading system established under the Clean Air Act of 1990. The system, which is managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, sets an overall national limit on SO2 emissions and requires hundreds of participating facilities to reduce their SO2 emissions or buy tradable permits from those that emit less. The first trades were executed in 1992 at around US $300 per tonne of SO2. The system is widely acclaimed to have succeeded in cutting emissions by over 50% between 1992 and 1998. Other examples include the emissions trading systems in volatile organic compounds adopted by the state of Illinois in 1997 and the 1998 Chile Offset scheme for the control of air pollution in Santiago. More recently, emissions trading in carbon dioxide and other GHGs have fast gained huge popularity. Trading in these gases followed the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997. Under the Protocol emissions reduction quotas are allocated to the developing countries and nations that emit less than their quota of GHGs are allowed to sell emission credits to polluting countries. In 2002, the United Kingdom opened the first national scheme in the world for trading GHGs. The scheme, which ran from April 2002 to December 2006, had about 33 companies as direct participants and was reported to have achieved emissions reductions of over 7.2m. tonnes of SO2e over its lifetime. However, by far the biggest known emissions trading scheme today is the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Emissions trading has been lauded in some quarters as one of the best ways to reduce the emissions of pollutants in the most cost effective way. Proponents argue that the schemes work better than control and command mechanisms in which emission limit values are imposed on particular facilities, in that the scheme allows companies the flexibility to determine where and how best to reduce emissions. However, some critics, mainly environmental justice NGOs, argue that emissions trading, as other market mechanisms, allows big and rich polluters to buy their way out of their pollution without doing much to reduce emissions. They also argue that emissions trading diverts attention from the wider systemic and collective socio-political changes needed to tackle global environmental problems.
European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)
The EU ETS is an agreement between the European Union (EU) member nations to monitor and report on national carbon dioxide emissions levels each year, and reduce emissions at an agreed rate in large emitting installations. At present, it represents the largest international trading scheme that incorporates activities from large industrial polluters. Under the auspices of the EU, National Allocation plans have been developed and tradable allowances have been allocated. The first EU ETS trading period was from January 2005 to December 2007. The second period began in January 2008 and will run to December 2012, to coincide with the first Kyoto commitment period. Initial allocations have been determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a range of factors such as costs of plant retrofits and prevalence of extreme weather events (heatwaves, cold snaps). Beyond this initial allocation, plant operators then buy or sell allowances from other actors (be they other plants, traders or governments) in order to stay below their allocation limit. The early trading came under criticism for a number of reasons. Among them, some considered the permits undervalued because they were given away free. Also, some considered the number of industries involved in EU ETS to be too low to be effective. In response, following allocation periods may auction nearly two-thirds of the permits, and other industrial sectors such as commercial aviation may be included.
Flexibility mechanisms (also called ‘flex mex’ or ‘Kyoto Mechanisms’) are tools that enable Annex I/B Parties to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments through actions outside their own borders. These are market-based measures that are argued to be more cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions strategies. They are outlined in the Kyoto Protocol as Joint Implementation (Article 6), the Clean Development Mechanism (Article 12), and Emissions Trading (Article 17). It is stated that Annex I/B countries can meet requirements of flexibility mechanisms after they have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, they have established an emissions accounting scheme at the national level, and they have agreed to report emissions reductions information on an annual basis. These mechanisms were first introduced in the UN Conference of the Parties negotiations by the USA in 1995 in Berlin, Ger- many. Their inclusion in the climate agreement was seen to be a concession by the European Union (EU) to encourage the USA to ratify and abide by the terms of the emergent Kyoto Protocol. However, as time went on, the EU embraced and developed the principles of these procedures—for example, through the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme—while US President George W. Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.
Fossil fuels are formed through heat and pressure over geologic time through the decomposition of organic matter. The term ‘fossil’ refers to the remains of this organic matter and is sometimes colloquially discussed as the energy derived from dinosaurs. This process has taken hundreds of millions of years to provide the fossil fuels we use today. Fossil fuels vary in energy content and volatility. Common fossil fuels are petroleum, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuel burning produces carbon dioxide, which is a principle greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. At present, the US Department of Energy estimates that approximately 85% of energy is derived from coal, oil and natural gas. Meanwhile, the remaining 15% comes from hydropower, solar, wind, tidal, nuclear and geothermal energy generation.
The Group of 77 (G77) is an umbrella group of developing countries that serves as a platform for the articulation of views on issues of common concern, especially with respect to deliberations within the UN or UN-sponsored treaties. In addition to articulating views, the G77, being an officially recognized intergovernmental organization, frequently sponsors motions during UN deliberations. It also produces joint declarations, action programs and agreements on issues pertaining to global development, political economy and environmental sustainability. G77 is generally regarded as the official of the developing countries in global environmental negotiations. The forum was very active during the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (1968–82) regularly providing a basis for internal consultation and the strengthening of developing countries’ positions on a number of thorny issues. The forum has also been very active in the UN Conferences on Climate Change, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It has provided the platform on which the less industrialized countries have been able to highlight issues of justice and equity implicated in climate change. The G77 was formed in June 1964 by 77 developing countries that were signatories to a joint declaration of issues at the end of the first session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held in Geneva, Switzerland. Today about 130 developing countries are members of the group.
Geoengineering as an idea is the deliberate modification of the earth’s environmental processes in order to make them more amenable to human societal needs and desires, writ larger. In practice, geoengineering is a tremendously controversial set of proposals due in part to the contested nature of goals and objectives—such as what is ‘optimal’ and ‘desired’—of such projects. Often, geoengineering initiatives are associated with countering the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change. Prominent among these activities are carbon sequestration projects. Examples include carbon capture and storage (CCS), enhancing cloud reflectivity (or ‘albedo’), and ocean fertilization. These projects aim to mitigate the effects of heat-trapping emissions through technology-led ingenuity.
The greenhouse effect is the process by which the earth is warmed through the retention of some of the Sun’s energy by the atmosphere. Scientists discovered long ago that the functions of some trace gases in the atmosphere mimic those of the glass in a greenhouse, hence the name. Just as the glass of the greenhouse is transparent to sunlight but opaque to the infrared radiation emitted by the warm surfaces within, so certain atmospheric gases including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons (known collectively as greenhouse gases—GHGs) allow sunlight to pass unimpeded but absorb the radiation from the earth’s surface. It is the absorbed radiation that is responsible for the warming of the land, atmosphere and the oceans. The earth receives energy from the Sun mostly in the form of ultraviolet radiation. About 30% of this ultraviolet radiation is reflected directly back to the Sun as ultraviolet rays, while about 70% is absorbed by the earth’s surface. The absorbed energy is subsequently released gradually by the earth’s surface in the form of infrared radiation with the intensity of the radiation increasing in proportion to the atmospheric temperature. Hence, the greater the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, the more infrared radiation is absorbed and, subsequently, the higher the atmospheric temperature. On average, the atmospheric concentration of GHGs has increased by more than 15% in the last 100 years or so. Scientists attribute this increase mainly to the burning of fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil, all of which result in the release of large amounts of GHGs to the atmosphere. Scientists believe that the rapid increase in GHGs in the atmosphere is responsible for the increase in mean temperature of the atmosphere over the last few decades. This condition is widely referred to as global warming. There are many uncertainties over the rate at which GHGs accumulate and the resulting consequences, but scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have estimated that a doubling of the present level of carbon dioxide concentration (or its equivalent to other gases) could cause a rise in the average temperature of 1–3.5°C and that such an increase may occur by mid-to-late 21st century unless steps are taken to reduce the emissions of GHGs. Scientists say that in order to avert dangerous changes in the climate, it is necessary to cut global emissions of GHGs by up to 50% of the 1990 level. However, under the Kyoto Protocol agreed at a Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 1997, nations agreed to reduce emissions of GHGs at the global level by about 6.2% by 2012. Most approaches to emissions reduction involve increasing the efficiency with which energy is used, as well as the use of renewable energy sources as alternatives to fossil fuels.
Group of Eight (G8)
The G8 has roots in the response to the 1973 oil shock and subsequent recession. The group’s formation was initiated by France, which sought more coordinated governance structures in an increasingly economically intertwined world. The G8 consists of heads of state from France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Canada, the USA and Japan. These countries form a coalition with meetings each year on a rotating basis and with a rotating ‘presidency’, which sets the agenda. For instance, in 2005 the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, and put climate change and poverty on the agenda as the two main points for discussion. From this 2005 meeting came a ‘Gleneagles Plan of Action on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development’. This plan supported energy efficiency improvement, renewable energy, and ongoing clean energy research and development. Associated with these meetings are quarterly G8 meetings of finance ministers, and annual gatherings of G8 foreign ministers and G8 environment ministers. For example, in April 2009 environment ministers gathered in Siracusa, Italy where climate change was at the top of the agenda in the lead up to the December 2009 UN Conference of the Parties meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark (see Copenhagen Conference). In recent years, France and the United Kingdom have sought to include a ‘plus five’ (or ‘outreach five’) set of key developing countries, to include their voices and interests in ongoing discussions. These countries are Mexico, People’s Republic of China, India, South Africa and Brazil. Also, there is support to include Egypt and expand the entire group from a ‘G8+5’ to a ‘G14’. These meetings are intended to increase dialogue among member nations in ongoing 21st century global challenges, such as climate change.
Intensity targets represent an alternative way to calculate and achieve reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Rather than a consideration of emissions reduction in and of themselves, intensity targets are based upon a ratio of carbon emissions reductions and gross domestic product (GDP). For example, on 14 February 2002, US President George W. Bush announced a new strategy to set a voluntary greenhouse gas intensity target for the USA. He declared a target of 18% ‘intensity’ reductions between 2002 and 2012. With continuing GDP growth, economists determined that this translated into actually allowing for total GHG emissions to increase by 12% over that time period. This plan was met with some suspicion, as Bush had withdrawn from the emissions reductions targets of the Kyoto Protocol in the previous year. Proponents call this way of accounting and planning for emissions reductions to be more sensitive to economic costs than straightforward emissions reductions targets as delineated in the Kyoto Protocol. Critics charge that this is a more nefarious form of ‘hot air’, cooking the books or ‘blowing smoke’. As such, focusing on intensity targets can present the appearance of GHG emissions reductions. However, as long as GDP growth outpaces emissions growth, it produces a negative value. Adding to the complexity of appearance and possible actual emissions growth or reduction, GDP calculations are laden with controversial elements and ways of making calculations.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The IPCC is a body established by two UN agencies, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) in 1988 to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not itself carry out scientific research on climate change, nor does it engage in the monitoring or gathering of raw climate data. Rather, the panel bases its assessments on peer-reviewed and published scientific literature and technical reports. The bulk of the members of the IPCC comprise government scientists but a significant number of independent academic scientists, researchers and scholars from various countries of the world also participate regularly in the activities of the IPCC. Over 2,500 scientific experts and 850 authors contribute to the works of the IPCC. The panel is open to all members of the UN and the WMO. The first meeting of the IPCC took place in November 1988 in Geneva, Switzerland where three expert or working groups were set up. Working Group I has the function of assessing the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. Working Group II assesses the impact of climate change on socio-economic and natural systems, while Working Group III assesses policy options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions as well as options for adaptation. Each Working Group has two Co-Chairs, one from the developed and other from the developing world, as well as a technical support unit. The first reports (called Assessment Reports) of the three Working Groups were presented in an IPCC meeting in Sweden in August 1990. These reports played a significant role in galvanizing activities and government support for the negotiation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) between 1990 and 1992. The IPCC reports are updated every five years. The Second Assessment reports were published in 1995, the third in 2001 and the fourth in 2007. The Fifth Assessment Report work has begun, for release in 2013. To date, the IPCC reports, despite some controversies relating to objectivity and bias, continue to provide the basis for much of governments’ position and negotiation on climate change. For example, the Second Assessment Report provided key input to the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC in 1997. Apart from these comprehensive reviews the IPCC also produces hundreds of special reports, technical papers, summary reports and CD ROMs on various aspects of climate change. The governing body of the IPCC is a Panel that meets in plenary sessions about once every year. The Panel adopts IPCC reports, decides on work plans for the Working Groups, on the structure of reports, and on budget and procedures. A secretariat, which is hosted by the WMO in Geneva, oversees the day-to-day operations of the group.
International Environmental Agreements (IEAs)
IEAs are treaties, conventions, or protocols that are set up to address environmental problems that have international implications. They are initiated by national governments agreeing to take action to limit environmental damage and can involve a dynamic range/complex web of actors. The fundamental objectives of IEAs include the desire to move from non-cooperative behavior to cooperative behavior in regard to the use of common resources, and the development of mechanisms for joint decision-making in regard to these common resources. An example of an IEA is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol. There are five basic steps in the development of an international environmental treaty. First is the identification of needs and goals. Second, are the negotiations, which can include a pre-negotiation negotiation to frame the parameters of the debate and set timetables for deliberations. At this stage, consensus processes are most common. Third is adoption and signature. In IEAs only countries vote: the UN Charter prohibits a decision-making role for non-governmental organizations. The fourth step is ratification, unless Parties agree to be bound simply by signature. This typically involves national-level legislative processes. Fifth, the IEA enters into force after sufficient ratification. This threshold is set in earlier negotiations. IEAs must be assembled in accordance with the rules of the Vienna Convention of 1969. The Vienna Convention defines an IEA as an agreement ‘concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation’. The Vienna Convention governs the major aspects of treaties (including negotiations, conclusion, interpretation, amendment and termination).
International negotiations over anthropogenic global climate policy have most prominently taken shape as the Kyoto Protocol. This Protocol was the product of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), drafted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or ‘Earth Summit’. The Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997. The Protocol came into force in 2005 following its ratification by Russia. The Kyoto Protocol provides detailed guidelines and policy mechanisms that allow governments to take more specific and measurable action to combat climate change in line with the objective of the UNFCCC. The most outstanding aspect of the Protocol is that it commits industrialized countries to legally, individually binding targets to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under the Protocol, the Annex 1 (industrialized countries) agree to cut their (cumulative) GHG emissions by at least 5% from the 1990 base line between 2008 and 2012, which is known as the first commitment period. Remarkably, the Protocol allocates all the industrialized countries with specific emission reduction quotas based on a number of criteria including historical emissions, level of technological advancement, extent of dependence on fossil fuel and peculiar development challenges. For example, the European Union has a quota of -8%, which it was expected to distribute among its then 15 member states, the USA has a quota of -7%, Canada, Japan and Hungary have each a quota of -6%, Norway has +1%, while Australia has +8%. The Kyoto Protocol also details a series of rules and project- based mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI), through which country Parties might collaborate to meet their emission reduction targets (Kyoto targets). The Protocol also provides for the trading of emissions among Annex I Parties as a means of achieving emissions reductions. Despite these provisions for collaboration among Parties and for emissions trading, the Protocol requires that contracting Parties must put in place strong domestic measures to reduce GHG emissions. The Protocol provides for the review of its commitments, so that these can be strengthened over time. Negotiations on targets for the second commitment period started in 2005, by which time Annex I Parties must have made ‘demonstrable progress’ in meeting their commitments under the Protocol. Only Parties to the Convention can become Parties to the Protocol, but this involves a separate ratification process. At present, about 175 Parties have ratified the Protocol. The USA was opposed to the Protocol and indicated its intention not to ratify.
Millennium Development Goals
Over 190 countries and approximately 24 international organizations have agreed to the principles and targets outlined by the Millennium Development Goals. These are a set of eight goals that were agreed at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, and derived from the UN Millennium Declaration. The goals also involve 21 associated targets to reach by particular periods of 2010, 2015 and 2020. These goals are 1) end poverty and hunger; 2) achieve universal primary education; 3) promote gender equality and empower women; 4) reduce child mortality; 5) improve maternal health; 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) ensure environmental sustainability; and 8) develop a global partnership for development. An example of an associated target is to halve the proportion of people without consistent access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water by 2015. Some of these aspirational as well as concrete goals and targets are on track, while progress towards reaching others is falling far short. Progress also varies by region, where sub-Saharan Africa continues to make little progress towards these development goals, while the People’s Republic of China does so quite rapidly overall. Funding for programs remains a key challenge. However, Group of Eight (G8) countries co-operated with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to establish a ‘Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative’ to promote debt forgiveness.
Mitigation is an intervention that reduces the sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) or enhances sinks for GHGs. This can take shape through efficiency improvements (such as greater automobile fuel efficiency), fuel switching to less carbon-intensive fuels (such as switching from oil to natural gas for power generation), or mode switching to renewable technologies (such as solar or wind power). Mitigation can also include enhancements of sinks, and is often a more technologically-centered and controversial approach.
The Montréal Protocol was signed in 1987 by 24 countries, which agreed to reduce chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) production by 50% by 1999. By the end of the 20th century most countries in the world were parties to the Protocol, which was a product of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. In a series of amendments to the Convention in the early 1980s, known as the London Amendments and Copenhagen Amendments, countries agreed to phase out CFC production completely by 1996 in the industrialized world. Developing countries were allowed over 10 years longer to phase out their production of ozone-depleting substances. In part because developing countries were still producing CFCs in the late 1990s, a ‘black’ market (illegal trade) in CFCs appeared in the industrialized countries. Many developing countries started to phase out their production with the assistance of a Multilateral Fund contributed to mainly by industrialized countries. At the end of the 1990s the People’s Republic of China was the largest producer and consumer of CFCs. One of the main alternatives to CFCs, the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are major greenhouse gases and are now meant to be regulated under the Kyoto Protocol. The other main alternative is hydro- chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are also ozone-depleting substances, albeit much less damaging than CFCs. Even so, HCFCs were also to be phased out completely in all countries by 2030. The other main ozone- depleting substance regulated under the Montréal Protocol is methyl bromide, a potent greenhouse gas and dangerous pesticide used mainly on grapes, strawberries, cut flowers and tomatoes. The USA is the largest producer and consumer of methyl bromide, closely followed by Israel, in terms of production. As a result of the Montréal Protocol, by 2000 some forms of CFC appeared to have reached their maximum concentration in the atmosphere, but the ozone layer had not yet started to recover. Ozone depletion was expected to continue long into the 21st century because CFCs persist for many decades in the atmosphere.
Non Nation-State Actors
Non nation-state actors (NNSAs) (also called non-state actors) are those who operate in climate politics from outside national-level government agencies. NNSAs include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), cities, mass media, multinational corporations and various social movement organizations. In investigations of climate politics and policy, there is often a focus on government officials explicitly shaping policy action. However, research centers such as the UK-based Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research have expanded considerations to encompass the influences of these NNSAs on ongoing climate politics and codified climate policies.
The concept of offshoring emissions refers to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are generated by a country through the production of material goods for consumption elsewhere. GHG emissions accounting schemes—such as those developed through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—at present account for the emissions from production of goods rather than emissions from goods imported and consumed in a particular country. A 2009 paper by Peters et al. in Geophysical Research Letters found that 6% of emissions in the People’s Republic of China are attributed to the production of export goods for consumption in Europe. They determined that if these country-level emissions profiles were recalculated to account for this production-consumption issue, the progress towards targets and timetables established in the Kyoto Protocol would look very different. For instance, the United Kingdom, which has achieved 18% reductions below 1990 GHG emissions levels, would instead amount to a 20% increase in GHGs since 1990. Thus, Chinese climate negotiators have introduced this recalculation as a possible point for discussion in ongoing Conference of the Parties talks. The calculation of emissions from production rather than consumption is one complex factor among many that reveal systemic challenges for ongoing climate politics and policy.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
With headquarters in Paris, the OECD was established in 1948 as part of the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after the Second World War. It gained a great deal of momentum and influence over the decades that followed. At present, the OECD is an international organization of 30 countries that share characteristics of relatively highly developed nations (with Turkey, Poland and Mexico perhaps as exceptions), with free market economies and representative democracies. The members are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA. Most of the OECD countries make up the bulk of Annex I/B Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on average by 5.2% from 1990 levels by 2012.
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
This group of petroleum exporting countries is often referred to in shorthand parlance as ‘OPEC’ and includes these 12 nation-states: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Venezuela. Indonesia has been a member of OPEC in the past. OPEC member nations possess about two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. However, with the development of energy production from tar sands, and renewable energy sources, this power and influence can be considered under threat. In principle, this group works to control the flow of oil onto the world market, thus influencing the price through the duel factors of supply and demand. However, many other factors, such as political stability and weather, play roles in shaping OPEC decisions and actions on this ‘flow of oil’. The stated goals of OPEC include efforts to stabilize international oil markets (avoiding large fluctuations in price) in order to continue the steady income to OPEC member nations. These efforts often fall short of their goals, though, as evidenced by the 1973 oil crisis and the 2008 oil shock.
Parts per million/parts per billion
Parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb) are ways of describing the amounts of trace gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Although these gases may be small in concentration, they are of great importance in terms of contributing to what comprises the greenhouse effect. At the time of writing, with slight seasonal variation, there were about 385 ppm of the principle greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ppm or ppb is defined as the number of parts by weight of a suspended or dissolved constituent per million/billion parts by weight. In other words, it can be described as parts of the gas per million/billion parts of the air. As a molecule, a ppm is about 1 milligram per liter of water (1 mg/L = ppm).
The precautionary principle is Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration (1992). It states, ‘Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation’. This principle aims to provide an informed and cautious basis for action in the face of uncertainty. It is most often applied in the context of the impact of human actions on the environment and human health, given the complicity of the system and the fact that most of the relationship and cause effect are extremely difficult to predict in details. The logic of the precautionary principle is that it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when some of the possible consequences of policies or actions on human health or the natural environment might be irreversible. The precautionary principle is widely accepted in international circles and is frequently mentioned in regional, multilateral and global environmental treaties.
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)
At present, approximately one-fifth of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to land use and land-cover change activities. Therefore, ongoing international climate politics consider what happens to forests to be critical to goals and objectives of substantive emissions reductions in the 21st century. REDD is a set of mechanisms and financial incentives proposed as part of the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. This set of mechanisms was first proposed at the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP-13) in Bali, Indonesia in 2007. Many competing interests have mobilized to influence the content of REDD mechanisms, as the carbon credits associated with deforestation and forest degradation projects can be both ecologically critical and financially lucrative endeavors. For example, indigenous movements and forest-dependent communities have been organizing in recent years to potentially receive credits for forest conservation that they can then trade for monetary value. These credits are thus seen as opportunities to address persistent legacies of colonialism and uneven development. Concurrently, a number of multinational corporations have taken interest in possible profits that can be derived from the commodification of forested lands in this way. Ongoing climate politics regarding REDD include discussions about how to determine what constitutes forested land (for example what percentage of tree cover must exist in different biomes), how to distribute benefits from forest conservation, how to incorporate historical deforestation rates into targets, and how to monitor, report and verify forest conservation activities. These are merely some of the vital issues that make the politics of REDD a high-stakes and highly contentious ongoing issue.
This is energy derived from ongoing natural processes or resources that are naturally regenerative. Unlike, for example, fossil fuels, of which there is a finite supply, renewable energy is obtained from sources that are essentially inexhaustible, as these resources are not depleted in the process of energy generation. Renewable sources of energy include hydroelectricity, wood, waste, wind, tidal and wave power, biomass, geothermal and solar thermal energy (such as photovoltaics). Historically, mankind has been harnessing energy from a number of these sources in a bid to maintain life on earth, but it was not until recently that they began to attract wide interest the world over. The main reason for renewed interest in renewable energy relates first to increased concern over the limit of the non-renewable sources and second to concern about climate change. Renewables are considered as desirable alternatives because, unlike fossil fuels (coal and petroleum), the generation of power from renewable sources does not lead to the emission of undesirable gases such as sulfur oxides (which causes acid rain) and greenhouse gases (responsible for climate change). Accordingly, renewable energy is widely seen as a major link in the global transition from a high-to a low-carbon economy. It is for this reason that both industries and governments alike have been committing large sums of money into the research and development of renewable energy over the last two decades or so. These investments have been yielding some positive results. For example, there has been about a 30% increase in the amount of energy generated through wind sources globally over the last two decades. Indeed, it is now thought that energy from renewable sources accounts for about 10% of global energy and this is set to increase over the next few years. In 2005, 4% of the UK’s electricity supply came from renewable sources and the government has set a target of 10% of electricity supply from renewable energy by 2010. Many other governments across the world, including those of the European Union, have also set similar targets to increase their supply of energy from renewable sources. The main challenges involved in generating energy from renewable sources relate to cost, quantity and stability. At present, it costs far more to generate energy from non-renewables compared with fossil fuels. Besides this, it is extremely difficult to derive a steady and high amount of energy from renewable sources, as production is affected by natural variations in meteorological conditions.
Rises in sea level are a possible consequence of climate change. During the 20th century the mean sea level rose by 15 cm and during the 21st century it could rise by a further 15 cm to more than 1 m as a result of global warming. Revised estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2007, expected the rise in sea level by 2100 to be between 18 cm and 59 cm, even without the contribution of melting polar ice. Predicting how quickly the polar ice sheets—particularly the immense Antarctic ice sheet and Greenland ice sheet—might melt is extremely difficult, but the Greenland ice sheet alone is estimated to contain enough water to raise sea level by 6 m. In 2009, based on analysis of growth rings of trees, ice-core samples and estimates of the variation in sea level caused by temperature over the previous 2,000 years, some scientists were putting the sea-level rise by 2100 at 1.2 m. Contrary to common belief, projected sea-level rises would be primarily a result of the thermal expansion of oceans owing to higher oceanic temperatures. It was not known for sure whether the polar ice caps and ice sheets would melt, releasing their enormous store of fresh water. As one of the projected impacts of climate change is increased precipitation, it is possible that the polar ice caps could increase somewhat, owing to more snowfall. If one of the land-based ice sheets were to break off as a result of climate change, it could cause a catastrophic rise in sea level. Even the more conservative projected rise could endanger many low-lying regions and small island states. This is because there are many regions that would actually be inundated by such a rise and also because storm surges would reach further inland as a result of the higher sea level. This concern prompted the formation of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) as a negotiating bloc in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.
The objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is found in Article 2. This article requires Parties to ‘achieve stabilization of the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. This Article is intended to be the standard by which the Parties’ commitments under the climate regime are measured. It also states that ‘stabilization’ should be pursued in an appropriate time frame for ‘ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner’. Since the entry into force of the UNFCCC, there has been increasingly politicized discussion and debate over the precise meaning behind the statement in Article 2 regarding the ‘stabilization of the greenhouse gas concentrations [ ... ] at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference’. Contestation has centered on what level of greenhouse gas concentrations constitutes ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’. Many climate scientists, such as Stephen H. Schneider of Stanford University, assert that this threshold has already been surpassed. For instance, as of 2009 atmospheric CO2 concentrations have risen to approximately 385 parts per million (ppm) (see parts per million/parts per billion), marking a 38% increase in emissions from pre-industrial levels of approximately 280 ppm, and a level not reached in the last 650,000 years.
The ‘Stern Review’ is a United Kingdom economic assessment of the effect of climate change on the global economy. It gains its name from the lead author, Lord Nicholas Stern, and calls climate change a ‘market failure’. The report was released in October 2006 and surveys the evidence on the economic impact of anthropogenic climate change, the cost involved in taking action to ‘stabilize’ the climate (as stated in Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), and the policy alternatives that can feasibly decarbonize United Kingdom industry and society. Key to the assessment is the use of a low-discount rate, where they determine that present and early actions will have great benefits for humans and the environment over the long term. The Stern Review determines that the allocation of 1% of global annual gross domestic product (GDP) to mitigate and adapt to climate change will avoid losses of up to 20% of GDP in the future. Two years later (in 2008), Lord Stern increased the recommendation to 2% of GDP, as anthropogenic climate change was unfolding more rapidly than previously thought. In comments on the Stern Review from HM Treasury, Oxford economist Cameron Hepburn claimed that ‘when the history of the world’s response to climate change is written, the Stern Review will be recognized as a turning point’.
Summary for Policymakers
The comprehensive, thorough and intensively reviewed chapters of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports are also condensed as a Summary for Policymakers (SPM). These summaries are designed to provide clear reference points for more extensive treatment in other parts of the report. The wording of each of these is approved in detail at plenary meetings, and this is done to reach consensus agreement on the science and on the best way of presenting the science to policy-makers with accuracy and clarity. The production of these SPMs can be a highly contentious and arduous affair.
Targets and Timetables
This phrase refers to the commitments to greenhouse gas emissions reductions for Annex I/B Parties in the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Targets and timetables first took shape through a recognition of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ that different countries have in fulfilling UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) obligations in the Berlin Mandate in 1995. However, the explicit commitments were made in the 1997 treaty, where the following countries delineated reduction commitments from 1990 levels by 2012: Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the USA. For example, the USA agreed to 7% GHG emissions reductions, signed by then President Bill Clinton in 1998 (this commitment was never ratified in the US Senate, however). Article 4 of the Kyoto Protocol stated that European Union (EU) commitments could be met through an aggregate effort, taking into account individual country circumstances, such as relative levels of economic development and associated abilities to decarbonize industry. This is also colloquially referred to as the ‘EU bubble’. The 15 countries of the EU in 1997 then sorted out responsibility for meeting the overall treaty obligation of 8% GHG emissions reductions. For example, the United Kingdom agreed to 12.5% GHG emissions reductions from 1990 levels and Germany agreed to 20% reductions. Meanwhile, Portugal was allowed a 27% GHG emissions increase during the first commitment period.
Technology transfer refers to a broad set of processes that share experience, knowledge, tools and information in order to assist in more effective climate mitigation and adaptation activities. For example, renewable technologies can be shared between research and development in the USA and India, so that rural electrification programs can avoid the pitfalls of fossil fuel energy sources and subsequent centralized energy generation and distribution.
UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
UNCED was held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It took place over 12 days and brought together a number of heads of government, while there were senior officials of over 179 countries present. Otherwise known as the ‘Earth Summit’, it was also attended by a record number of non-governmental organizations and over 8,000 journalists. The purpose of the meeting was to adopt a new global strategy for economic development that did not compromise the quality of the global environment. The Earth Summit was, in effect, an attempt by the world community to design a framework and adopt practical steps that were needed to achieve global sustainable development. The path to Rio started with the release of the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (the Brundtland Report) in 1987. The Report contained serious warnings of the growing threat to earth’s system from environmental degradation, pollution, industrial economic development and world poverty, and called on the UN to convene a global conference where these threats and possible solutions might be addressed. Five years later, at the insistence of the UN, the world gathered in Rio with fanfare and expression of optimism designed to encourage the world leaders to embrace the path of change required to save the earth. In the end, five main documents were agreed. The first was a 27-point Rio Declaration, which endorsed the commitment to pursue sustainable development and to eradicate global poverty. The second was Agenda 21, which is a 40-chapter plan of action on how governments at all levels, businesses and individuals might go about pursuing the objectives of sustainable development. The heads of government also adopted two important conventions: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The latter document was a statement on sustainable forest management. Although more than 20 years on it is doubtful the extent to which the objectives of Rio have been achieved, the Earth Summit has remained one of the most significant in the history of environmentalism, not the least for its role in raising the profile of environmental concern to a global level.
UN Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE, Stockholm 1972)
The UN General Assembly organized the Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 (or the ‘Stockholm Conference’) in Stockholm, Sweden ‘to serve as a practical means to encourage, and to provide guidelines for, action by Governments and international organizations designed to protect and improve the human environment, and to remedy and prevent its impairment, by means of international co-operation, bearing in mind the particular importance of enabling developing countries to forestall occurrence of such problems’. At the time, the Stockholm Conference was one of the largest and most successful UN conferences undertaken, as 113 countries had representation (although only India and the host country Sweden were represented by their heads of state). Three major products emerged from the Stockholm Conference. First, there was the ‘Stockholm Action Plan’, which identified the environmental issues requiring international action. It contained over 100 priority recommendations for planning and managing human settlements for environmental quality, addressing the environmental aspects of natural resources management, identifying and controlling pollutants of broad international significance, exploring and strengthening the educational, informational, social and cultural aspects of environmental issues, and addressing the integration of development and environment. Second, the Stockholm Conference launched the UN Environment Program (UNEP), to then act as a general authority over environmental issues. Its mission was ‘to facilitate international cooperation in the environmental field, to keep the world environmental situation under review so that problems of international significance receive appropriate consideration by Governments, and to promote the acquisition, assessment and exchange of environmental knowledge’. Third, from the conference came the ‘Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment’. This provided groundwork for subsequent acceptance of the concept of ‘sustainable development’ as promoted by the Brundtland Commission (in 1987; see Brundtland Report). The Declaration emphasized the importance of integrating environment and development, reducing or eliminating pollution and limiting the use of ecosystem services and resources. It also delineated the role that international co-operation and, thus, international law must play in facilitating action to address global environmental challenges.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
The UNEP is an agency that evolved from the UN Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. The UNEP is now accepted as the agency responsible for coordinating environmental activities within the UN system. The UNEP’s global base is in Nairobi, Kenya. It is one of only two UN programs headquartered in the developing world (the other is UNEP’s sister agency, UN HABITAT, which is also located in Nairobi). The UN neither awards contracts, nor executes environmental programs. Its main responsibility is to stimulate awareness on environmental matters as well as to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment. The UNEP executes these functions mainly by inspiring, informing and providing the platform for international co-operation on the environment. Since its inception, the UNEP has played a crucial role in the area of issue definition and agenda setting. It has functioned as a catalyst for the elaboration of many important environmental regimes, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In performing its functions, the UNEP works closely with other UN agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, as well as with environmental scientists, industrialists and decision-makers. The UNEP also functions to provide important help to developing countries in their bid to care for the environment. To this end, it works with scientists, policy- makers and environmental activists in these countries to promote or strengthen relevant institutions for the wise management of the environment. It also facilitates the transfer of knowledge and technology for sustainable development from the more industrialized to the less industrialized countries. The UNEP has six regional offices around the world and serves as host for several environmental convention secretariats, including the Ozone Secretariat, the Montréal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Basel Convention.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The UNFCCC is a voluntary and non-binding declaration of standards, goals and objectives that represents international co-operation to reduce human- made greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change (known also as ‘anthropogenic emissions’). This Convention—modeled after the Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer—established a general framework for emissions reductions. The text begins with a series of declarations. The first states that ‘Parties’ (participating countries) in the UNFCCC, ‘[a]cknowledg(e) that change in the earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind’. The UNFCCC document comprises 26 Articles, ranging in issues from defining terms (Article 1), to the financial mechanism (Articles 11 and 21), to requirements for the entry of the UNFCCC into force (Article 23). The objective of the Framework is found in Article 2, to ‘achieve stabilization of the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. Articles 4, 10 and 12 contain statements regarding more specific commitments of the Parties, based on ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. Article 4(2) of the UNFCCC text distinguishes between three groupings of Parties to the convention, based on present levels of industrialization: Annex I Parties (all industrialized countries), Annex II Parties (all industrialized countries except those of the former Soviet bloc in the process of economic transition to market economies, in light of the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991), and all Parties (including developing countries). Furthermore, Article 4(2)b notes that ‘the aim’ for these Annex I countries is to return to 1990 levels of anthropogenic emissions. Articles 10 and 12 outline the rules by which Annex I Parties must ‘adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs’. As stated, these emissions reductions are to be based on factors such as a Parties’ level of dependence ‘on income generation form the production, processing and export, and/or consumption of fossil fuels and associated energy-intensive products and/or the use of fossil fuels for which such Parties have serious difficulties in switching to alternatives’. Moreover, Article 4 (3–5) notes that developed countries shall assist developing countries reach anthropogenic emissions reductions goals through technology transfer as well as various forms of financial assistance. The text of the Convention was adopted at the UN Headquarters in New York on 9 May 1992. It was then opened for signature to leaders at the June 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a conference also commonly referred to as the ‘Rio Conference’ or the ‘Earth Summit’. Overall, 154 countries signed the UNFCCC. Notably, US President George Bush Sr. was one of the signatories, and the US Senate ratified it on 15 October 1992. Through associated and sufficient ratification through other signatories’ legislative bodies, the UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. The UNFCCC has endured much scrutiny. First, critics charge that the few specific obligations to curb anthropogenic climate change contained in the document have allowed for considerable discretion in application. Second, the proposed emissions reductions are deemed to be merely symbolic as they do not significantly mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Third, legacies of colonialism shaping contemporary inequality and associated levels of greenhouse gas emissions are underemphasized in this UNFCCC country-level emissions reductions approach, and rhetorical acknowledgements (such as the Berlin Mandate in 1995) have proven insufficient. However, proponents counter that this approach is a productive first step that encourages Parties to be involved in the process, before then potentially signing on to binding agreements that follow.
Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
This Convention was the first drawn up to deal with the destruction of the ozone layer. The international agreement came after a conference in 1985, and was adopted by 21 states and the European Communities (which became known as the European Union in 1993). It called for a halt in the production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases and for procedures to reduce all emissions of CFC gases. The producers of CFCs, mainly found in the developing world, would not sign the Convention until they received guarantees of compensation. The Convention led to the Montréal Protocol, signed in Canada in 1987, which mandated the phase-out of the production and consumption of ozone- depleting substances such as CFCs and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)—CFCs in all countries by 2010 and HCFCs, by 2030. The UN Environment Program, the UN Development Program and the World Bank have established a multilateral fund to help developing countries with the costs of complying with the Protocol and provide for the necessary technology transfer.
Zero emissions represent a goal and objective of decarbonizing energy production and consumption. The term is often associated with the ‘carbon economy’ and is called the zero-carbon economy. Such a discursive move marks a shift in focus from 20th-century carbon-based industry and society to aspirational movements in the new millennium. Tools used to help achieve this goal of zero emissions include policy actions, carbon markets and flexibility mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol. Through this kind of variety of economic, political, ecological and cultural initiatives, new actors and more citizens are stepping in to work towards carbon reductions and, eventually, zero emissions.