The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, was considered a bust by many participants and observers.
However, the convention has produced some positive developments. The UNFCCC recently announced that it has received national pledges from 55 countries to limit and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020.
The Copenhagen Accord, an agreement reached at the December conference, called for countries to submit their emissions targets to the UNFCCC by the end of January. The 55 countries that have submitted plans to cut GHG emissions, represent 78% of all energy-related global emissions.
Among industrialized countries, the commitments come from Australia, Canada, Croatia, the European Union and its member states, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States. Commitments also came from 23 developing countries, including such major emitters as Brazil, China, India, the Republic of Korea, and South Africa.
However, many of the commitments, particularly those of the developed countries, hinge on similar commitments being made by other countries. They also use varying base years for comparison. In the case of the United States, the commitment is to reduce GHG emissions "in the range of 17%" below 2005 levels," in conformity with anticipated U.S. energy and climate legislation, recognizing that the final target will be reported to the Secretariat in light of enacted legislation. However, other countries use other base years as a starting point.
“This represents an important invigoration of the UN climate change talks under the two tracks of Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. The commitment to confront climate change at the highest level is beyond doubt. These pledges have been formally communicated to the UNFCCC. Greater ambition is required to meet the scale of the challenge. But I see these pledges as clear signals of willingness to move negotiations towards a successful conclusion,” said Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.
The UNFCCC notes that the next round of formal climate negotiations is scheduled for Bonn, Germany, at the end of May, although several countries have indicated their wish to see a quick return to the negotiations with more meetings than the scheduled sessions.
With 194 members, the UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 190 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
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