Climate Change: Developed and Developing Nations Share the Burden of Change

ClimateChange.jpgOn Wednesday, The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released a first draft of a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol (1997) which is set to expire in 2012. This new 53 page document is considered to be the basis for the agreements to be made in the international climate talks scheduled for December 7th-18th in Copenhagen.

The key-differentiating factor between this document and the original Kyoto Protocol is that the newly proposed treaty calls for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by both developed and developing nations. Bridging this gap should satisfy the historical Kyoto opposition from both sides, which plagued the original framework since it’s inception. Under the Bush administration, opposition to Kyoto was founded in the notion that due to output volume of GHG emissions, developing nations should be included in the framework. Conversely, opposition from developing nations was founded in the argument that as the leaders in per capita pollution of CO2, the industrialized nations should hold the primary burden of emissions reductions.

With revised emission reductions for both developed and developing countries, the UNFCCC’s latest draft attempts to satisfy the needs of all involved parties. The head of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer indicates that the release of the new draft marks, “an important point on our road.” The document contains a nearly complete list of industrialized nations’ commitments to cut emissions after 2012, which allows for cross-national comparisons of reduction goals. The intent is that information sharing of this type will encourage the creation of more ambitious goals on behalf of participating nations.
According to the newly proposed treaty, emerging countries such as China and India would commit to targeting reductions of GHG emissions to 15% – 30% of 2000 levels by 2020. If agreed upon, this commitment would represent a first-ever international agreement for developing nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the newly proposed framework, developed nations would target carbon emissions reductions to 75% – 95% of 1990 levels by 2050.
With only 200 days remaining until the final December talks in Copenhagen, this document represents the promise of a comprehensive and shared set of agreements to sign-off on in Copenhagen. That being said, there is still more work to be done on the proposed treaty between now and December. In June, governments will meet in Bonn, Germany to debate the details of the new draft. Specifically, the Bonn talks will examine the various proposals for establishing emissions limits and the allocation of funding and penalty payments.
Currently, the draft treaty has indicated that a nation’s population trends, access to technology and economic trends will be considered. The new document also proposes that funding priorities be placed on regions with glaciers, regions affected by desertification as well as low-lying areas that are at high risk of flooding.
In addition to setting revised targets for emissions cuts, the draft document also describes detailed mechanisms for financing, technology development and capacity building initiatives in the fight against climate change.

David received his undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Sciences from James Madison University and completed an M.A. in International Development at Clark University. With over 10 years of experience in the field of environmental sustainability, David has worked for organizations such as Environmental Defense Fund, USDA, USGS and the Smithsonian Institute.Currently, David is a NetImpact member and an MBA candidate at the Presidio School of Management where his research focus is on developing market incentives for investment in environmental sustainability.

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