The world is facing climatic changes due to increased anthropogenic interventions in natural cycles in the industrial age. It was realized by the end of the twentieth century that the international fraternity should act together to halt adverse climatic changes produced by industrial and other activities, especially the activities which produce green house gases and excessive carbon emissions, two most important reasons of climatic changes, among others. The following international agreements were made to halt climatic changes:
The Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion. It was agreed on 26 August 1987, and entered into force on 16 September 1989, following a first meeting in Helsinki, May 1989. Since then, it has undergone nine revisions, in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), 1998 (Australia), 1999 (Beijing) and 2016 (Kigali). As a result of the international agreement, the ozone hole in Antarctica is slowly recovering. Climate projections indicate that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070. Due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international co-operation.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty adopted on 9 May 1992 and opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. It then entered into force on 21 March 1994, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified it. The UNFCCC objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. The framework sets non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the framework outlines how specific international treaties (called “protocols” or “Agreements”) may be negotiated to specify further action towards the objective of the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC has 197 parties as of December 2015. The convention enjoys broad legitimacy, largely due to its nearly universal membership.[
The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This protocol commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that (part one) global warming is occurring and (part two) it is extremely likely that human-made CO2 emissions have predominantly caused it. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. There are currently 192 parties (Canada withdrew from the protocol, effective December 2012) to the Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to reduce the onset of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to “a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (Article 2). The Kyoto Protocol applies to the six greenhouse gases listed in Annex A: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: it acknowledges that individual countries have different capabilities in combating climate change, owing to economic development, and therefore puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. A second commitment period was agreed in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, in which 37 countries have binding targets: Australia, the European Union (and its 28 member states), Belarus, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine have stated that they may withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol or not put into legal force the Amendment with second round targets. Japan, New Zealand, and Russia have participated in Kyoto’s first-round but have not taken on new targets in the second commitment period. Other developed countries without second-round targets are Canada (which withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012) and the United States (which has not ratified). As of May 2019, 128 states have accepted the Doha Amendment, while entry into force requires the acceptances of 144 states. Of the 37 countries with binding commitments, 7 have ratified. Negotiations were held in the framework of the yearly UNFCCC Climate Change Conferences on measures to be taken after the second commitment period ends in 2020. This resulted in the 2015 adoption of the Paris Agreement, which is a separate instrument under the UNFCCC rather than an amendment of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016. The agreement’s language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of March 2019, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, and 186 have become party to it. The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.
Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming. No mechanism forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. In June 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term. In practice, changes in United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement have already been put in place.
In July 2017 French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot announced a plan to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles in France by 2040 as part of the Paris Agreement. Hulot also stated that France would no longer use coal to produce electricity after 2022 and that up to €4 billion will be invested in boosting energy efficiency. To reach the agreement’s emission targets, Norway will ban the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2025; the Netherlands will do the same by 2030. Electric trains running on the Dutch national rail network are already entirely powered by wind energy. The House of Representatives of the Netherlands passed a bill in June 2018 mandating that by 2050 the Netherlands will cut its 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions level by 95%—exceeding the Paris Agreement goals.
COP24: Katowice Climate Package
After the historic Conference of Parties (COP) in 2015 that concluded with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, climate diplomacy has reached another major milestone: delegates at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, agreed on the ‘Katowice Climate Package’ which defines how the Paris Agreement will be implemented globally. It includes provisions on:
- what information needs to be communicated in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs);
- how the enhanced transparency framework (ETF) will be operationalised;
- the process for establishing new targets for climate finance;
- how to conduct the Global Stocktake;
- how to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology.
Work on decisions on market mechanisms will be continued at the upcoming negotiations.
One major element of the Katowice package is the adoption of ETF modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs). These apply to all Parties, while providing flexibility for those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities. Such flexibility is self-determined, and countries making use of it will need to explain how they apply it, what the capacity constraints are, and provide time frames for improvements in relation to those capacity constraints. Additionally, information on how a country is improving its reporting should be part of the biennial transparency report.
The MPGs cover the following:
- national inventory report on anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases;
- information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving NDCs;
- information related to climate change impacts and adaptation;
- information on financial, technology development and transfer and capacity building support provided and mobilised;
- information on financial, technology development and transfer and capacity building support needed and received;
- technical expert review;
- facilitative, multilateral consideration of progress.
The first biennial transparency report and national inventory report are to be submitted by 2024 at the latest.
Some further work remains to be done in relation to the ETF. In the period up to COP26 in 2020, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice has to develop a) common reporting tables and tabular formats for the electronic reporting of different types of information, b) outlines of the biennial transparency report, national inventory document and technical expert review report, and c) a training programme for technical experts participating in the technical expert review.
Implementing the ETF
In 2019, all countries will start to reflect on how they can begin implementing the ETF in the light of the MPGs and in their specific country context, including identification of potential support needs. Arrangements for capacity building will continue to provide support to developing countries, with the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) remaining a major source to this end. The CBIT was established under Paris Agreement and provides support for developing countries to build institutional and technical capacity for meeting enhanced transparency requirements.