In the 1800s, the idea of a “greenhouse effect” was only an incredible hypothesis on the climate. The prediction of Swedish Scientist Svante Arrhenius that mankind’s further combustion of fossil fuels might result in an increase in the earth’s temperature was questionable. Scientists believed that carbon dioxide emissions could never alter the cyclical balance of nature. Four decades later, G.S. Callendar claimed that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was indeed causing a warming of the earth; however, his argument was seen by many scientists as far-fetched. In the 1960s, C.D. Keeling’s new exploration proved that the assumptions of Arrhenius and Callendar were undeniably true. Through the use of more advanced method and computations, researchers discovered that man-made carbon dioxide caused degradation to the atmosphere’s protective layer. Such degradation could lead to drastic changes in climate. Since then, there had always been a linkage between carbon dioxide and temperature. The increase or decrease in carbon dioxide may cause the rise or fall in temperature (Weart).
The Earth Suffers from Mankind Abuse
Within the last century, global warming has caused the Earth’s average temperature a Fahrenheit-degree climb. The 2007 climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) affirms the unmistakable warming of the Earth’s temperature and the dramatic upsurge of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Moreover, the IPCC report shows that the rapid warming of the earth is principally attributable to human activities. The once inexpensive, abundant fossil fuels that have facilitated massive increases in human output and vast developments in individual interests over the past two centuries alongside considerable deforestation have mainly been the contributing factors to global warming (Bradley).
The disturbing IPCC report provoked scientists all over the world to find more convincing proofs of the colossal effects of warming. Scientists have detected thinning of the Arctic ice, melting of Greenland ice sheets, and shrinking of glaciers. Other environmental crises forecasted are: increased sea levels that will eventually submerge coastal areas and low-lying island nations; extinction of plant and animal species; reduced productivity in agriculture; and frequency of extreme weather such as hurricanes and droughts. These observations are apparent that the climate is changing at an alarming rate, surpassing all predicted assumptions. The atmosphere’s increasing temperatures and its consequential results are happening more rapidly than expected (Bradley).
If measures are not implemented to control emissions, atmospheric experts expect global warming to ascend to very unsafe intensities with permanent damage to the cycles of biology and the balances in nature. Because carbon dioxide releases are largely man-made, radical adjustments in human activities will be essential to prevent environmental dilemmas. International and domestic actions to deal with carbon dioxide emissions must be seriously executed not just for economic expansion but likewise for a clean carbon-free environment (Bradley).
The Earth Summit
The Earth Summit or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 3, 1992 and was signed by 178 nations represented at the Rio Conference. Its goal was to stabilize levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere that would stop hazardous man-made intrusions to climate. This level should be accomplished within a timeframe sufficient for the environment to adjust to climatic changes; to guarantee supply and stability of food production and to allow sustainable methods towards economic growth (Kruschandl).
The UNFCC issues covered methodical inspection of patterns of petroleum manufacture; renewable energy sources for fossil fuel replacement; the escalating water shortage; and the use of public transportation to lessen carbon dioxide releases, overcrowding in cities and health concerns due to air pollution (Kruschandl).
Climate Change Action Plan
Clinton’s 1993 Climate Change Action Plan is a determined proposal to trim down GHG emissions to their 1990 level by the year 2000. It was developed as a rejoinder to the concession of a climate change agreement at the 1992 Earth Summit. The plan meets both challenges of countering the future threat of global warming and at the same time bracing the nation’s economy. In the introductory paragraph of the action plan, Clinton affirms that GHG emissions reduction to their 1990 level “is an ambitious but achievable goal that can be attained while enhancing prospects for economic growth and job creation, and positioning our country to win in the global market” (DeAngelis).
The Climate Change Action Plan does not set binding targets for participating nations to reduce their emissions to a marked level, but it obliges all industrialized nations to organize action proposals describing the general principle behind the action, with strategies for implementation, economic impact, and projected emission cutbacks.
The plan for action depends on voluntary participation of the private sector with the government in reducing destructive emissions in the following areas: residential, industrial, commercial, energy supply, transportation, agriculture and forestry. It requires voluntary involvement by the major GHG emitters responsible for the growing problem (DeAngelis).
The Clinton Plan highlights flexible terms and teamwork, stressing that it will “continue to break new ground in the relationship between government and the private sector–fostering cooperative approaches and a forward-looking agenda, rather than relying exclusively on command-and-control mandates that tend to lock technologies into place and stifle innovation” (DeAngelis).
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement adopted in Kyoto, Japan in December of 1997 that controls global greenhouse gas emissions to delay the progress of global warming. The Protocol, which implements lawfully binding commitments on greenhouse gas emissions, came into force on the February 16, 2005 following Russia’s ratification in November of 2004. It is a supplementary treaty to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“Kyoto Protocol”).
While the UNFCC persuades industrialized and well-developed nations to stabilize their greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto Protocol obligates these nations to take actions for emission stabilization. Since the industrialized countries are largely accountable for the present concentrations of GHG in the atmosphere, the protocol obliges them to take leadership in the combat against climate change according to the “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle (“Kyoto Protocol”).
The Kyoto Protocol lays down obligatory targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union nations for lessening total emissions from six greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons. The industrialized countries have specific targets, amounting to 5% emission decline based on year 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. The European Union nations agree to an 8% reduction; Germany aims for a 21% reduction; and United Kingdom consents to a 12.5% reduction. On the other hand, Greece and Spain are permitted a 25% and 15% emission increase, respectively (Rekacewicz).
Ratification: In order for the treaty to commence as an international law, it has to be ratified by at least 55 national governments worldwide. The ratifying nations have to account for more than 55% of 1990 GHG emissions. Given that the United States and Russia are the largest emitters for 36% and 17%, respectively, in 1990 GHG world emission levels, the ratification of at least one of these two nations is crucial for the Kyoto Protocol implementation (Rekacewicz).
Emissions Trading: The Protocol grants GHG emissions “budgets” to industrialized nations for their target emission levels. If a country goes beyond its emission limits, it could purchase emissions reductions “credits” from another country with extra emissions reductions (Parker).
Common but Differentiated Responsibilities
The Conference of Parties came up with the principle “common but differentiated responsibilities” which includes (1) The biggest contribution of past and existing world GHG emissions came from industrialized and well-developed countries; (2) Per capita emissions in developing countries are still comparatively small; and (3) GHG emissions from the developing nations are expected to rise as they meet their population and industrial growth (Kruschandl).
The industrialized nations insist that the developing nations (most countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America) should have commitments to limit emissions. Issues of population increase, industrial expansion and projected emissions rise in developing nations raised concerns from the industrialized nations. The developing nations dispute that their GHG emissions are too minimal to cause climate change. However, regardless of persistent disagreement by the U.S. and other industrialized nations, the Protocol exempts developing countries from binding commitments to control emissions (Kruschandl).
Position of the United States
The Clinton Administration dynamically shared in the concession that formed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. signed but refused to ratify the protocol due to several issues with the treaty’s structure concerning the lack of commitment by developing nations in curbing GHG emissions. As stated in the U.S. Byrd-Hagel Resolution, the U.S. will not enter into any agreement that will be damaging to its economy and will reject any treaty that has no mandatory obligations to the developing nations. Because of these objections, President Clinton did not present it to the Senate for ratification. The provisions of the protocol are non-binding over the U.S. until ratified (Bradley).
In March 2001, the Bush Administration withdrew U.S support and active participation to the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. withdrawal forestalled the further implementation of the protocol. Recovering U.S. participation and ratification of the protocol; and involvement of the developing countries would give success to the Kyoto Protocol as momentous drop in world greenhouse gas emissions would rely on emissions reductions by the biggest polluters (Fletcher and Parker).
Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate
The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is a solution plan of the U.S. Government to employ the world’s leading economies in confronting the challenges of a cleaner energy future. The Partnership centers on investment and trade development in carbon-free energy technologies, goods and services in the major market sectors. It is an agreement between the United States and the six Asia Pacific countries, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. The Partnership was officially announced at the regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on July 28, 2005. Collectively, the partner countries are accountable for over 50% of the global GHG emissions, population, and energy use. These countries manufacture approximately 65% of the world’s coal, 62 % of the world’s cement, 52 % of world’s aluminum, and 60 % of the world’s steel (“Asia- Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate”).
Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate Change established eight manageable Task Forces: Aluminum, Buildings and Appliances, Steel, Coal Mining, Power Generation and Transmission, Cleaner Fossil Energy, Renewable Energy and Distributed Generation, and Cement. The Task Forces aid APP partners in maximizing the use of accessible opportunities and available resources to raise energy efficiency and decrease emissions. Moreover, these forces enable groundwork for long-term market revolution (“Asia- Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate”).
Green New Deal or Green Economy Initiative
The Green New Deal or the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) is devised to support governments in “greening” their economies by redirecting government investments and expenditures away from the old economic priorities that have focused on short term abuse of the earth’s resources, and into job-creating programs, reduction of harmful gas emissions, healing the environment, and promoting sustainable economic growth. The initiative is an ambitious proposal organized by the United Nations Environment Program to generate millions of jobs, revitalize global economy, reduce poverty and prevent environmental degradation. Redirection and refocus on “green growth” averts environmental catastrophes and at the same time, saves the global financial system. Greening the economy in a more sustainable practice will put the world back on the road to recovery. The multimillion dollar initiative is financed by Germany, Norway and the European Commission. It was adopted from the study developed by international negotiators in 2006 during the G-8 Summit on the economic significance of ecosystems. “G-8” nations include the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom (“Green Economy Initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme”).
Bali Action Plan: A Post-2010 Road Map
In December of 2007, at the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia, the participating countries approved the Bali Roadmap, also known as the Bali Action Plan, a successor to the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. The plan was adopted as a UNFCCC decision and established in a two-track process, namely the Convention Track and the Kyoto Protocol Track. Both tracks aspire to discover a world climate system after the Kyoto Protocol regime (“Bali Action Plan”).
World leaders from over 180 nations mutually confirmed the undeniable evidence of global warming and concluded that meaningful global cooperation is essential in trimming down man-made emissions to lessen the threat of more severe climate change impacts in the future. There was a strong agreement for restructured changes for both developed and developing countries. The negotiations arrived at a consensus to mandatory “deep cuts in global emissions” of 20-40% cutbacks in 1990 levels for developed nations by 2020 and 50% cutbacks in 2000 levels for developing nations by 2050. The convention proved to be a success as it signals the return of U.S. support in the international environmental negotiations on climate change after its abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. Under the Bali Action Plan, the nations pledged to protect poor nations from the impacts of climate change, to protect the forests, and to facilitate transfer of green technologies from industrialized nations to the developing nations (“Bali Action Plan”).
Carbon Sequestration Initiative
The Carbon Sequestration Initiative (CSI) is a multi-million dollar investment formed by industrial groups to examine technologies on carbon capture and storage. The initiative was commenced in July 2000 by 18 industrial giants, namely “Alstom Power, American Electric Power, American Petroleum Institute, Babcock & Wilcox, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENEL, Entergy, EPRI, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil Corporation, Peabody Energy, Sasol Technology, Schlumberger Carbon Services, Shell, Siemens Power Generation, Southern Company and Vattenfall” (“Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies”). The initiative investigates quick and safe deployment of harmful emissions storage with the aid of the most innovative devices and scientific knowledge of carbon sequestration methods. The consortium provides the latest evaluation and information on carbon sequestration; connects private industries with government activities on carbon capture; surveys social and scientific factors of carbon sequestration; motivates and initiates fresh research schemes; and forms a yearly discussion for tactical opinion and recognition of new commercial prospects (“Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies”).
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
In December 2005, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was formed by the joint efforts of the governors of 7 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont) to decrease local carbon dioxide emissions that are causal to worldwide climate change. The initiative is the first binding U.S. cap-and-trade carbon dioxide program. RGGI sets a cap (limit) on CO2 emissions from big fossil fuel-generated power plants in the RGGI states, and permits other power plants to trade emissions allowances. Its flexible, market-based cap-and-trade program aims to accomplish greenhouse gas emission cutbacks at the most minimal cost. RGGI states devote profits in consumer benefits, such as clean energy technology, alternative energy, and energy efficiency. RGGI encourages advance in the green economy and produce clean energy jobs in each state (“Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative”).
Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord
The Midwestern States of Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Canadian Province of Manitoba formed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord on November 15, 2007. The Accord is the third regional initiative dealing with carbon emissions reductions in the U.S. and Canada. It is an agreement to create regional GHG reduction marks compatible with the proposed 60 to 80% cut by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Accord is a multi-sector, market-based cap-and-trade scheme to sustain limits on carbon dioxide emissions (“Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord (MGGA)”).
Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest
In 2007, the Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform was adopted by the Governors of 12 Midwestern states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Ohio) and the Canadian Province of Manitoba. The Platform’s objectives include: alternative energy production, the development of efficient energy; availability and adequate supply of less-carbon fuel for transportation, and improvement on carbon sequestration and storage. The participating states consent to a district regulatory agenda for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and agreed to have at the minimum, one commercial-level and coal-run Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant with CCS by 2010. The Platform forecasts that all new regional coal plants would have implemented carbon capture and storage by 2020 (“Regional Initiatives”).
Western Climate Initiative
In February 2007, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) was established by the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington with the target of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. The six primary greenhouse gases targeted for reduction are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons, perflourocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. In April 2007, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba in Canada, and Utah and Montana in the United States joined the initiative. In September 2008, WCI released its Design Recommendations for a regional multi-sector cap-and-trade program. By 2012, WCI will cover emissions from electricity generation and large industrial and commercial sources, and by 2015, WCI will cover emissions from transportation and other residential, commercial, and industrial fuels (“Regional Initiatives”).
International Carbon Action Partnership
In Portugal, government leaders from 15 nations convened to commence the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) on October 29, 2007. The ICAP is an international cooperation discussion between states and substate regions intending to bond regional Emission Trading Schemes. It was created for the institution of a more effective world cap-and-trade carbon market. The Partnership offers the opportunity for partner nations and regions to exchange experiences and link possibilities in topics such as carbon offsets or Carbon-Leakage. The partnership composed of a group of nations and regions that support carbon emissions trading (Pandve).
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