Earlier this month began a big milestone for international climate change affairs as the United Nations Climate Change Conference began in Copenhagen, Denmark. The conference will last for two weeks and involves many world leaders in talks about climate change. Copenhagen talks have huge potential to affect global carbon emission standards.
Repeated attempts have been made to create a worldwide carbon agreement. The first international conference on climate change was in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At the conference the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) was created. The framework was a voluntary and non-binding agreement for countries to reduce their carbon emissions. Since the framework was non-binding, it had little effect on global climate change.
In 1997, another agreement, the Kyoto Protocol was created as the first legally binding global emissions treaty. The agreement set forth goals towards a five percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below the 1990 levels by 2012. However, the treaty failed to get the United States to ratify the treaty, one of the major carbon emitting countries in the world.
Further international discussions lead to another climate change conference in 2007 that was held in Bali. At this conference, a Bali Road Map was formed. The road map outlined a process for planning out an agreement that could be finalized and signed at the next climate change conference held in Copenhagen.
Now at Copenhagen, world leaders have to finalize an agreement set in motion by the Bali Road Map. A plan that will revise the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and set UN countries in motion to mitigate climate change beyond 2012, the date set by the Kyoto agreement.
According to the UNFCC, the conference has four main goals:
- Make clear how much developed countries, such as the U.S., Australia, and Japan, will limit their greenhouse gas emissions.
- Determine how, and to what degree, developing countries, such as China, India, and Brazil, can limit their emissions without limiting economic growth.
- Explore options for “stable and predictable financing” from developed countries that can help the developing world reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
- Identify ways to ensure developing countries are treated as equal partners in decision-making, particularly when it comes to technology and finance.
As the conference continues during the next two weeks, we will examine how close world leaders come to meeting these goals set by the UNFCC. We could possibly see a global carbon emissions agreement by the end of this conference.