Climate change has always been an
issue in our society, yet not the most pressing one. However that has changed
greatly, due to scientific discoveries and advances within the 1950s that have
continued and will keep continuing (World Meteorological Organization, 2017).
Upon the realization that certain factors and our own actions where affecting
the environment, the global community started to bring further awareness to
these issues. They did so by forming climate change conferences, the very first
taking place in 1979, Geneva.
The First World
Climate Conference – Geneva, 1979
The 1979 World Climate Conference is commonly referred
to as the First World Climate Conference (FWCC). The 12 day long summit was
held in the International Convention Centre in Geneva from February 12th
to the 23rd, with its main focus being global warming and how it
could affect human activity. It was attended by WMO, the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO),
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ICSU and other important
organizations. The event was dubbed as “a world conference of experts on
climate and mankind”, and within the first week was attended by about 350
specialists from 53 countries and 24 international organization (White, 1979).
By the end
of the conference the organizers created a World Climate Conference Declaration
including the following:
to the all-pervading influence of climate on human society and on many fields
of human activities and endeavour, the Conference finds that it is now urgently
necessary for the nations of the world:
(a) To take full advantage of man’s present knowledge of
(b) To take steps to improve significantly that knowledge;
(c) To foresee and prevent potential man-made changes in
climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity (World Meteorological Organization,
The conference was quite successful as directly after, it led
to the establishment of the World Climate Program, and spurred two more World
Climate Conferences that continued to make significant scientific progress over
a span of over 30 years.
The Kyoto Protocol –
Protocol was established in Kyoto, Japan on December 11th of 1997
and put into action on February 16th of 2005. The Protocol commits
its participants to the set international binding emission reduction targets
with regular commitment periods where progress is checked. As the protocol
recognizes that developed countries are mainly responsible for the current high
levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere due to many years of industrial
activities, the agreement places a larger load on developed nations under the idea
of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (United Nations,
Qatar, on December 8th 2012, the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto
Protocol was adopted. The amendment includes new commitments for the
participants involved, a revised list of GHG to be reported on, and amendments
to several articles that specifically referenced issues related to the first
commitment period which are required to be updated for the second commitment
period (United Nations, 2013).
Protocol, countries must meet their goals, measureable by national standards.
However, the Protocol also offers them supplementary methods to meet their
targets by way of three market-based mechanisms.
mechanisms are as listed below:
International Emissions Trading
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
Joint implementation (JI)
Protocol is historically seen as the first step towards a global emission
reduction regime that stabilized GHG and CO2 emissions, as it was
the first of its kind. It has been
regarded as an agreement that can provide the framework for future
international agreements on climate change and the environment, however Canada
did not seem to share the same sentiment.
Canada chose to exercise its legal right and drop out of the Protocol, as the country
had signed onto it under a liberal government but no major efforts at
implementation had been made. “The Kyoto protocol does not cover the
world’s largest two emitters, the United States and China, and therefore cannot
work,” the Canadian environment minister, Peter Kent said. “It’s now
clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate
change. If anything it’s an impediment,” (The Guardian, 2011). Canada
joined the US and developing countries that were not a part of the Protocol, as
it specifically targeted developed nations when developing nations were also
emitting large amounts of GHG (United States Failure to Sign the Kyoto Treaty).
Climate Change Conference – 2009
The Copenhagen Climate Change
Conference was a highly political environment as almost 115 world leaders were
in attendance (United Nations, 2014). This made the conference one of the biggest
gatherings of world leaders ever outside of the UN headquarters located in New
York. The conference added improvements to the Clean Development Mechanism within
the Kyoto Protocol and majorly progressed the negotiations on the infrastructure
needed for sufficient global climate change cooperation.
The conference only ended up producing
the Copenhagen Accord, which portrayed political intent to constrain carbon and
respond actively to climate change, in both the short and long term. The accord
consisted of leaders from the US, Brazil, South Africa, India and China.
The Accord contained several major
elements. One element was their long-term goal of limiting the maximum global
average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. However, the
parties involved could not agree on how to do this in a rational way (United
Nations, 2014). It also included a consideration to limit the temperature increase
to below 1.5 degrees – an important demand made by vulnerable developing
countries that would experience extreme affects from larger temperature
increases (United Nations, 2014).
Other central elements included:
countries’ promises to fund actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adjust
to the inevitable effects of climate change in developing countries.
countries promised to provide US$30 billion for the period 2010-2012.
to mobilize long-term finance of a further US$100 billion a year by 2020 from a
variety of sources.
on the measurement, reporting and verification of developing country actions,
including a reference to “international consultation and analysis”,
(which at the time, had yet to be defined).
The establishment of four new bodies
was another element:
mechanism on REDD-plus
High-Level Panel under the COP to study implementation of financial provisions
Copenhagen Green Climate Fund
The Accord was a last minute endeavour
that was thrown together, but was no concrete means to an end. It was vague
when describing how countries could achieve the set goals and did not have any
reasonable methods to assess progress. At the time of the conference it was
only agreed upon and acknowledged by a few countries, failing to sway the
majority due to these reasons. Obama himself said, “This progress is not
enough” and that they have come a long way but have longer to go (Vidal, John,
et al., 2009).
The Paris Agreement –
The Paris Agreement was a major win in
the fight against climate change, as it was the first legally binding global
climate change deal that was universally accepted by 196 countries. The
agreement’s key elements include reducing emissions, transparency and global
stocktake, adaption, loss and damage, role of cities, regions and local authorities
as well as support (Climate Action – European Commission – 2017). A long-term goal of keeping the increase in
global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to
aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C were two that governments agreed upon. Due
to the vague and flexible nature of the agreement, countries are able to set
their own goals within the parameters and justify them accordingly. 195
countries were originally inclined to ratify the agreement with the exception
of Nicaragua and Syria, however they have joined the agreement as of 2017,
leaving the US as the only country left out of the agreement. President Trump plans
on leaving as it will put the country at a “permanent disadvantage” (Ballesteros,
Steps for Success
the climate summit conducted within our class, we were able to successfully
create a working document and pass a motion and plan to fight against climate
change. Our summit was successful for a few different reasons. If those points
and strategies that we used were to have been applied to a conference such as
the Copenhagen Climate Conference, the parties involved may have seen a better
and stronger outcome.
believe that the first step to having a successful climate change conference
would be to listen to and acknowledge all of the countries involved within the
summit. As seen with the Paris Agreement, it was successful as all of the
countries were working towards a common goal but each are able to work towards
it at their own pace, according to their resources and financial standings, among
ties into the goals being achievable, which I believe to be the second step in
success. If the goals within the conference’s outcome are achievable they will be
plausible for a country or any country to attain, which would motivate a
country much more than trying to strive for something that is impossible to
The final step is to make sure that the goals
constructed by the conference are measurable. This way, countries and committees
are able to track the progress made in the fight against climate change and
make sure that requirements are being met.