Global Climate Change: Who is fooling whom?-Part III

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Feb 5th, 2014
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The United Nation Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) will Continue for years without meaningful agreements

By: Idowu Oyebanjo

climate changeRecently, the United Nation Framework Climate Change Convention was concluded in Warsaw, Poland with no meaningful agreements reached by vested interests. That was however not the first time world leaders will meet on the topical issue of Global Warming for the fun of it, and unfortunately, it will not be the last without meaningful outcomes. The following paragraphs give the brief history of global Climate talks held by world leaders in the past.

Climate Scientists began to be more vocal about their concerns regarding Climate Change (CC) from the early 1980s. The Vienna convention for the protection of the ozone layer was held in 1985 to provide the required platform and framework for the negotiation of the Montreal accord. Here, the responsibilities of individual countries for simultaneously protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of ozone depletion were addressed. The ozone layer shields the planet earth from the damaging radiations from the sun. Thus, the Montreal protocol, signed in 1987, led to an international agreement designed to protect the ozone layer by stipulating that substances which can deplete it must be phased out of production and consumption by the beginning of this millennium (Year 2000). These compounds include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Carbon Tetrachloride, Hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) etc. In 1988, the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to assess the scientific knowledge on global warming. Africans and indeed Nigerians are serving on this panel. They can be contacted to provide further insight into Government policies respecting Climate Change (CC). The first report of the IPCC paved way to an international convention for CC known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed by over 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. As a slow beginning, the convention could only take effect in 1994 after the conference of Parties (COP) fine tuned and negotiated the decisions and conclusions of the convention which led to the adoption of a more popular Kyoto protocol (COP3) in 1997. A protocol for the purpose of this discussion is an international agreement linked to an existing treaty, but standing on its own.

The Rio Convention was weakened because the US threatened a boycott if there were binding commitments to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions in her usual wisdom. Otherwise, how do you tell a country with abundant gas reserves to surrender development and a “lavishing” way of life when it is not Nigeria? Since article 4 of the convention clearly recognizes the right for developing countries to develop economically, China and India, who have since become the “emerging” world powers, ramped up development of their infrastructure to make their countries like the US or Europe. This means burning fossil fuels to provide constant electricity, good transport network, High speed trains etc. Nigeria unfortunately did not wake up. Within the succeeding fifteen years (1992-2007), China became the world’s largest “polluter” second only to the US. This means nothing else but constant electricity, availability of good transport services, development of roads and other infrastructure exploiting readily available technologies as well as energy from coal, oil and gas. Yes, china and India became “emerging” world powers.

The Kyoto Protocol

The conference of parties (COP) convened again in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 to review the activities of party nations who are signatory to the binding agreements on emissions reduction. The developed nations were earlier assigned emissions targets they must not exceed while the developing nations were not bound by any assigned limits. Under this protocol, industrialised countries (also known as annex 1 countries) commit themselves to a reduction of their GHG production by a collective total of up to 5% relative to the benchmark levels of 1990.

The main purposes of this protocol include but not limited to

  1. Provision of mandatory targets on greenhouse gas emissions for the world’s leading economies most of whom accepted it at the time.
  2. Provision of the required flexibilities in how countries meet their targets.
  3. Recognition of the fact that commitments to emissions reduction will vary from country to country.

Sadly and again, the US came to the Kyoto deliberations saying they will only agree to a globally binding agreement to cut down emissions if and only if the rest of the world agreed to use her “wonderful” Emissions Trading System (ETS) where emissions permits are traded by putting a cap on the amount of emissions that would be allowed by individual nations and then allowing firms to trade on this. Every other nation rejected it but as the US made this a pre-condition for signing up to the agreement and insisted on this, others were forced to adopt it. As soon as the other nations adopted it, the US pulled out of the agreement. What a demonstration of world power! Although COP3 tried to resolve most of the operational details of the existing protocol, the US and some other powerful nations did not ratify it. A global agreement which is binding on other nations apart from the US did not seem to be a good idea back then and is still not today. This is one of the reasons why the protocol which was adopted in 1997, only came into force in 2005. Yet, key ingredients which emerged from COP3 included three flexible schemes – the clean development mechanism (CDM), the international Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Joint Implementation (JI) mechanism.

Efforts to define the unresolved operational details led to several other meetings such as COP 4, Buenos Aires, November 1998, COP5, Bonn, October/November 1999, COP 6, The Hague, November 2000 and COP 7, Marrakesh 2001. Suffice it is to mention here that several other cities have been used to further the course of Climate Change with a view to securing a globally accepted and legally binding agreement until the last show in the just concluded COP 19 in Warsaw, November, 2013.

The table below provides a summary of key steps taken thus far on Climate Change.

Key Steps Towards Action on Climate Change

Events

Dates and Venues

Principal achievements

First report (IPCC1) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC).

1990 Broad international consensus among Climate scientists that human actions are influencing the climate
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Entered into force in 1994)
  • Committed the global community to stabilizing the level of GHG in the atmosphere
  • Recognized the primary responsibilities of industrialized countries, and the differentiated responsibilities of developing countries
IPCC – Second report (IPCC2) 1995
  • Confirmed human influence on Climate
  • Stated that the risk from Climate Change is enough to justify preventive actions (Governments which have signed the convention have to accept the findings of the IPCC).
Conference of parties 1 (COP1) 1995, Berlin, Germany
  • Established budget, Secretariat and Institutional mechanisms.
  • Established pilot phase of “Activities Implemented Jointly” to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Agreed time table for setting specific reduction targets for industrialised countries.
Conference of Parties 2 (COP2) 1996, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Endorsed IPCC2 and COP 1 agreements
  • US announced her commitment to binding targets “medium-term”, with “flexibility in implementation measures”
  • OPEC dropped its position to action.
Conference of parties 3 (COP3) 1997, Kyoto, Japan Agreed the Kyoto protocol, with reduction targets for industrialized countries on GHG emissions.
Conference of Parties 4 (COP4) 1998, Buenos Aires, Argentina Agreed a “Plan of Action” for following up on the Kyoto protocol, including processes for stimulating technology transfer to developing nations
Conference of Parties 5 (COP5) 1999, Bonn, Germany Further progress sought on implementing the Kyoto protocol
Conference of Parties 6 (COP6) 2000, The Hague, The Netherlands  
IPCC Third Report (IPCC3) 2000/2001  
“RIO Plus Ten” Earth Summit 2002 Many people hoped the Kyoto protocol will be ratified as a legally binding agreement but this did not happen. It only came into force in 2005.
  2005 Negotiations began for a second round of emissions reduction for the second half of the Kyoto protocol
  2008-2012 Agreed cuts in GHG specified in the Kyoto protocol will lapse. A replacement protocol must be sought

Sadly, and as can be observed from the table above, many of the objectives highlighted have not been realized. For example, the industrialized countries have not been committed to the course of emissions reduction to the scale required of them by the binding Kyoto protocol. The US even opposed the Kyoto protocol itself. Nigerian and indeed African representatives at any future submit must bear in mind this question. Why is it that after any agreement reached at a Conference of Parties, it takes many years later before it is being fully ratified by just a few countries? Food for thought indeed! The Kyoto protocol took eight years to get ratified!!

It is obvious from the Warsaw conference that the developed economies are less interested in talks about Climate Change and commitments to any binding agreement. This is why they will explore the process of fracking to get more Oil and Gas from planet earth, pollute more to satisfy their ever growing energy needs. The lesson is, developed economies are more concerned about energy sustainability and will go to any length to meet this desire, even it means impacting negatively on the environment. If they had more Oil and Gas reserves, no one will talk about Climate Change, at least not for now. What happens in the meanwhile is that individual nations return to ramp up development of their infrastructure by “polluting” the earth knowing full well, and indeed, very well, that the time left to do same is reduced.

e-mail:oyebanjoidowu@yahoo.com

Telephone: +44-7985682587

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