International Protocols

International Protocols

Without a healthy and clean environment, human beings will be deprived of their right to a healthy and productive life. We have learnt substantially how environmental pollution is taking away our rights to such life. So, to keep the biodiversity and environment in a healthy condition is the need of the hour.

Environment and more specifically environmental pollution has no political boundaries. The air polluted in one region can be transmitted to thousands of miles without the manmade barriers. Thus, environmental pollution, global warming, climate change and other related issues have been given more weight at international forums and symposia.

A number of efforts are being made at international and national levels to maintain the equilibrium and resilience characteristics of the ecosystems with the objective to make them sustainable and productive. These efforts are given the nomenclature of international conventions or conferences and protocols.

What are Conventions and Protocols?

convention is a meeting or gathering to formulate or deliberate on a generally accepted principle, framework in which the parties decide the basic guidelines. For example, Rio Convention.

protocol, on the other hand, contains specific aims or legal obligations agreed upon by the members who gather in a convention or conference. Usually, when a major provision is to be incorporated on regulations of the convention, a protocol is called among the countries, who are signatory of the original convention when it was signed and approved.

The United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty created at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992.

The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are annual events held in the framework of UNFCCC. The conferences are held to assess the progress made in efforts to deal with climate change.

These conferences serve as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties and are popularly called Conference of Parties (COP). Palestine became the 197th party to UNFCCC in 2016.

The first UN Climate Change Conference or Conference of Parties (COP 1) was held in 1995 in Berlin.

Landmark Conferences of Parties (COPs)
Year Name of the COP Focal Point
2007 COP 13 – Bali Action Plan To further commitments by parties to Kyoto Protocol
2009 COP 15 – Copenhagen Accord To establish an ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012, when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires
2010 COP – 16 – Cancun Agreement Encompassed finance, technology, and capacitybuilding support to help such countries meet urgent needs to adapt to climate change;

Set up Green Climate Fund to support climate change mitigation efforts

2011 COP – 17 – Durban Agreement To adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, and no later than 2015
2016 COP – 22 – Marrakesh Action Proclamation Pledge to press ahead with implementation of Paris Agreement

Objectives of UNFCCC

  • To stabilize Greenhouse Gas concentration to such a level that would prevent human induced interference with the climate system within a timeframe.
  • To enable the ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Earth Summit

The Brundtland Report of 1987 sent an alert to the world about the urgency of making progress towards sustainable economic development without harming the already sick environment and without depleting the vanishing natural resources.

Five years later, the progress on enunciated sustainable development was sought by the UN and United Nations Conference on Environment & Development. Held in June 1992 at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Rio Earth Summit as it became popularly known, was the largest environmental conference ever held, attracting over 30,000 people including more than 100 heads of state.

The Rio Conference was held primarily with an objective towards building upon the hopes and achievements of the Brundtland Report with a view to responding to mounting global environmental problems and to agree on major treaties on biodiversity, climate change, and forest management.

The major outcome of the Earth Summit was Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally, and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area that humans impact on the environment.

Besides, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of Principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted.

The Earth Summit influenced all subsequent UN conferences, which have examined the relationship between human rights, population, social development, women and human settlements — and the need for environmentally sustainable development.

The Kyoto Protocol

In order to reduce the growing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth’s atmosphere, the UNFCCC put in place the first ever agreement between nations to mandate country-by-country reduction in GHGs. This historic Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and hence, got the name of Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol officially came into force in 2005, after being formally ratified by the required number of nations. Participating nations or the signatories have agreed to meet certain greenhouse gas emission targets, as well as submit to external review and enforcement of these commitments by the UN-based bodies.

The parties or the signatory countries committed to reduce the GHGs emission, based on the premise that (a) global warming exists and (b) man-made CO2 emissions have caused it.

Under Kyoto, industrialized nations pledged to cut their yearly emissions of carbon, as measured in six greenhouse gases, by varying amounts, averaging 5.2%, by 2012 as compared to 1990.

It excluded developing countries such as China and India, which have since become the world’s largest and fourth largest polluters according to the International Energy Agency, as well as second-placed United States which refused to ratify the deal.

A second commitment period was agreed on in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment to the protocol, in which 37 countries have binding targets: Australia, the European Union (and its 28 member states), Belarus, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

Initiatives like Kyoto Protocol has been necessitated as the UN has set a target of limiting global warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels — a level at which scientists say the planet may be spared the worst impacts of climate change.

Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol is related to the substance that depletes the ozone layer of the atmosphere. This International Treaty, is designed to protect the ozone layer, by phasing out the production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The Treaty was opened for signature on 16 September, 1987 and came into force on 1 January, 1989.

Its first meeting was held at Helsinki in May, 1989. Since then, it has undergone several revisions in London (1990), Nairobi (1991), Copenhagen (1992), Bangkok (1993), Vienna (1995), Montreal (1997, Beijing (1999), and Kigali (2016).

It was agreed that if this international agreement is strictly adhered to, the ozone layer would recover by 2005. At first, the aim was to remove harmful chemicals such as CFCs by 50 percent by 1998. The target was further revised so as to curtail the production of these chemical at the earliest.

The Montreal Protocol has been ratified by 196 countries. It is the first international treaty to achieve complete ratification by member countries. In Kigali, Rwanda in 2016, the Parties (Members) agreed to an international phase down of 85 percent of Hydroflurocarbons (HFCs).

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement or Paris Climate Agreement is a UN sponsored pact to bring the world countries together in the fight against climate change.

Countries that sign on to be a part of the pact agreed to limit the century’s global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the levels from the years 1850-1900 (the pre-industrial era) and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Participating countries made the Paris Pact on 12 December, 2015 to adopt green energy sources, cut down on greenhouse gas emission, and limit the rise of global temperature.

Every country has an individual plan or ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ to tackle greenhouse gas emission.

The agreement went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016; 30 days after at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of the world’s global emissions ratified it on Oct. 5, 2016. As of May 2017, of the 196 negotiating countries that signed the agreement, 147 parties have ratified it.