Biggest GHGs Emitters;The Politics of Climate Change


Infographic: The politics of climate change – Interactive – Al Jazeera English.

Environment Ministers from approximately 200 countries will from today,26th November to  7th of December meet in Doha,Qatar to try and reach a new agreement on emissions at the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP18) .Up to date,close to 187 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol.191 countries had  signed it by September 2011.The Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005.


The Kyoto Protocol.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commits the developed countries to make an average cut of 5.2 per cent in their greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions from a 1990 baseline. Thus,states negotiated for different national targets.For instance,the biggest carbon dioxide emitter (2010) after China,the U.S.A, pledged to cut by 7 per cent GHGs emissions.However,the U.S.A just  signed the treaty but did not ratify it.These targets were to be achieved by the first commitment period;2008-12.The  European Union which  made a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent in the first commitment has committed to making more cuts under the second commitment period.Russia which negotiated a zero per cent cut below the 1990 levels has since opposed the second commitment period.During last year’s climate talks in Durban,South Africa,nations agreed to extend the timeline of the Kyoto Protocol.Japan and Canada  pledged 6 per cent cuts each.They are also opposed to the second commitment period.Canada,as a matter of fact withdrew from the treaty in 2011.Hence my sensational and seemingly ‘pipe-dream’ argument that until the global environmental regime,under the aegis of the UN or whatever supra-national authority starts penalizing massive environment polluters a la states’ grave human rights violation,it would be a case of two steps forward,three steps back.It also at the same time,sadly,confirms that international law is a law between and among states and certainly not above states.China,the biggest emitter of GHGs which signed as a developing nation wants a second commitment period.

The Kyoto Mechanisms.

For achievement of those percentage cuts of greenhouse gas emissions,three mechanisms were agreed upon:

  • Emissions Trading.Envisages a system where a market in rights to pollute is created.For instance,efficient power plants can sell their permits to emit carbon dioxide to others and a long-term reduction in the number of permits available will mean that the price of carbon rises,alternative power sources become more competitive,and the overall amount of carbon dioxide emitted is reduced.
  • Joint Implementation(JI).Under this mechanism,a developed country can receive credits against its own emissions reduction target by financing projects in another developed country.The argument is that a given amount of money is best spent where it can achieve the greatest reduction in world emissions of greenhouse gases.Countries with very efficient power plants will have an incentive to use this scheme.
  • The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Applies the same principle to relations between developed and developing countries.This has already stimulated a good deal of interest in China and elsewhere because it is a source of new funds and technology transfer.

With many an encomium such as ‘Africa Rising’,’The African Century’  lately,Africa has the opportunity to tread a development path that entails a low carbon footprint.Estimates have it that between $22 to $31 billion per year,is the  the amount of resources required between now and 2015 for Africa to adapt to climate change and go down the low carbon development route.Africa,pundits say,is among the most vulnerable regions to climate change and variability.

Ratification:the procedure by which a state approves a convention or protocol that it has signed.There will be rules in the treaty concerning the number of ratifications required before it can enter into force.

Sources:Al Jazeera,The Globalization of World Politics(5th ed),The New African.


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  1. Pingback: Sustainable Development Goals:Raising The Water Security Profile. | Reflections of a pan-Africanist

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