Climate Change Law: From the Kyoto Protocol to Present Days and Beyond

This article is written by T.PREETHI, a student from government law college, Tirunelveli. In this article the student had discussed about climate change, global warming, initiatives by the nations around the world, Kyoto protocol, Doha agreement, and Paris climate agreement and at last, and the present day scenario.

Climate

The variation in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological variables in a particular region over a period of time is known as climate. The climate of a region is generated by the climate system. A locations climate is affected by its latitude, terrain, altitude, nearby water bodies and the currents.

Climate Change

The variation in the climate in a region over a period is known as climate change. These changes reflect the atmosphere over time scales. They are the results of the natural processes like continental rift, volcanoes, ocean currents, the earth’s tilt, comets, meteorites and also with the contribution of human activities.

Global Warming

It is primarily the problem of excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The major reason for this condition is burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas for energy. Not only this, certain waste management and agricultural practices have also aggravated the problem by emitting other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide which are the results of dumping waste, coal mining, using fertilizers etc.

The consequences of global warming are more evident on earth’s physical, chemical and biological processes now days. As a result of climate change we experience the increase in illness, death from heat waves, wild fires, storms, floods etc. at the same time, we also experience shift in season cycle, extreme weather,  melting of ice, increase in sea level, loss in natural habitat, extinction of species etc.

Legal Efforts

In the year 1992, the changes caused by emission of greenhouse gas, was addressed in the United Nations framework convention on climate change. The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) drew attention in the international forum on climate change with its 1990 assessment report. The report stated that, the increase in greenhouse gas emission has caused considerable warming on earth’s surface beyond its usual level.

In the fourth report on climate change, released in 2007, it was mentioned that, the human activities increased the concentration of GHG.

Initiatives

In the year 1992 an initiative to control GHG emission was introduced in the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC). Several principals were established on how the international forum would address the climate change. The parties of the UNFCCC agreed upon developing a national greenhouse gas emission inventories, share scientific research and technology and help in creating measures for climate change adaption. However, none of these agreements were legally binding

In the year 1997, the Kyoto protocol came up.

The Kyoto Protocol

It is an international agreement that aimed at reducing the CO2 emission and the presence of GHG in the atmosphere. The primary ideology of this is to reduce the CO2 emission in industrialized nations. This protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan in the year 1997 on December 11 and became a international law on February 16, 2005.

Those countries that ratified the Kyoto protocol were assigned maximum carbon emission and participated in the carbon credit trading. If any ratified country entitled more than the assigned limit, it would be penalized for failing to keep up the emission level below the limit.

Primary Objective

  Under the Kyoto protocol, the developed industrialized countries agreed upon reducing the hydro carbon emission by 5.2% by the year 2012. This would represent around 29% of the world’s total GHG emission. The targeted level for each country varies from one another. The European Union gagged that; they would cut emission by 8% while the United States and Canada said that they would reduce by 7% and 6% respectively by 2012.

The Kyoto protocol placed heavy burden on the developed nations and mandated the 37 industrialized nations to cut their GHG emission. This protocol separated the countries into two groups, annex-1 and non-annex-1. The ones that were listed under annex-1 had limitations on the emission level; while the ones listed under non annex-1 participated by investing in projects, which were designed to reduce emission in their countries. For this initiative, the developing countries earned credits known as “carbon credits” which they use for trading or selling to developed nations allowing a higher level of maximum carbon emission for that period.

In the year when Kyoto protocol became a international law there was still rise in the global emissions. In fact, between 1990 and 2009 there was a increase of about 40% in emission globally.

Doha Agreement

In the year 2012, December the first commitment period ended and the parties of the Kyoto protocol met in Doha, Qatar for the amendment of the original Kyoto agreement. In this Doha amendment new emission reduction targets were added. Second commitment period, it ended up with a short life span when the Paris climate agreement was signed.

The Paris Climate Agreement

In the year 2015, the participants of UNFCCC signed a pact at the sustainable development submit held in Paris. Almost every nation adopted this in order to address climate change and its negative effects. All the major GHG emitting countries agreed upon cutting down their climate-altering pollution and strengthen the commitments over time. This agreement provided a way for the developed nations to assist the developing nations in their efforts to adapt climate control. This created the framework for monitoring and reporting climate goals transparently. 

Climate Change Laws in India

India being an emerging large economy faces challenges relating to energy and climate changes. On one hand people suffer without proper access to electricity and demanding more energy. This will substantially result in high energy usage and emission in the future. With that being said, India is vulnerable to the impact of climatic changes and in particular water stress, agri and susceptibility to weather-related disasters.

Despite being a non-annex 1 country under the Kyoto protocol, it is an active participant in the clean development mechanism (CDM) established by the protocol. It has made some major climate laws like 

  • National action plan on climate change, 2008
  • National electricity paln, 2012
  • Post- Copenhagen domestic actions, 2010
  • Tariff policy, 2006

Kyoto Protocol in Present Day

In the current scenario, it is still alive with tangled complexities of political involvement, money, lack of leadership, consensus and bureaucracy. Almost all that global warming is the result of human actions. An action by them needs a remedy by them only; this remedy should be in the form of behavioral changes.

REFERENCES:

  • CLIMATE CHANGE available @eli.org
  • INDIA: CLIMATE CHANGE- INDIAN LAW AND JUDICIARY available @mondaq.com
  • THE KYOTO PROTOCOL available @ investopedia.com

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