Arquivo de etiquetas: Protocolo de Kyoto

Towards a New Climate Change Agreement V

Towards COP21

We’re aiming towards COP21 in Paris in December 2015. And last lecture we left the damsel in distress on the railroad tracks. Copenhagen had not succeeded in reaching a binding new framework, a clear legal protocol to follow up Kyoto.

The conferees at COP15 in Copenhagen did make a political declaration. They said we’re not giving up, we’re agreeing climate change is real, that we need to focus on limiting the human-induced increase in the Earth’s temperature and all the other consequences of climate change that accompany that. We need to keep working. But they didn’t reach the kind of agreement that they really had hoped to reach.151

There was some statements by governments in the Copenhagen Declaration – here’s what we’ll do.  But those statements just didn’t add up to the scale of change that’s needed to head off the great dangers for the world.

So here we are COP15 and the world since 2009 has been trying to pick up the pieces and really in a way dust ourselves off and say okay, we are going to reach an agreement and the determination has put the eyes on 2015 as the date when a new protocol, a new agreement will be reached. It will take some time to go into force so we’re really looking at an agreement in 2015 that will be ratified by member states by  2018, go into force and become really operational in 2020. Where do we stand? What has happened since Copenhagen?

Well Copenhagen did set some very important markers. Copenhagen was the place where the limit of two degrees Celsius remember 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit was set based on the underlying science that said that is a limit we dare not exceed

If we do exceed that, as we’re going to be discussing, in future lectures, we face really grave risks and alas we’re on a trajectory not only to exceed two degrees celsius but even 3, 4, 5 degrees Celsius if we don’t change course. So Copenhagen did get that 2 degrees C limit in there. Copenhagen was also very important for establishing the idea that rich countries are gonna pay a meaningful amount to help poor countries to take on both the challenge of mitigating, that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adapting to the climate change that’s underway.

Now the year after Copenhagen, governments met in Cancun, and in Mexico at COP16 the governments really strengthened and solidified the commitment to the 2 degrees Celsius limit. That’s our limit. We have to find a way to keep the increase of the mean temperature compared to its pre-industrial temperature, that is compared to a couple centuries ago, below a 2 degrees Celsius increase and because many countries said even 2 degrees Celsius is too much.

We should review all the scientific evidence and ask ourselves the question maybe we shouldn’t even dare to go up to two degrees Celsius. Maybe we should be stopping at an even tighter limit, say one and a half degrees Celsius. This is certainly what the small island developing states are saying because they are saying we’re gonna disappear under the waves if the sea level rises so much. We can’t even afford a two-degree Celsius limit.

Now at COP17 in Durban an even more consequential and clear decision on timing was taken. That’s when the world’s government said okay 2015. No joke. That’s it. We must reach a serious agreement. Let’s get everything in place and this is an agreement that’s going to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol; it’s going to involve all countries not only the Annex 1 countries. Of course, the non Annex 1 countries, the developing countries are saying, and rightly so, that doesn’t mean we’re all on even par.

152The rich countries have more capacity, more money, more technology, more historical responsibility; so they still have to do more, in other words the developing countries are saying we still need to adhere to a standard of or like common but differentiated responsibilities. This is all still to be negotiated. How the relative burdens will be shared. But the idea is agreed that we need a universal agreement to be reached and Durban in COP17 in 2011 said that. In Doha, at COP18 the following year, 2012, the specific work streams on how to reach that agreement at COP21 in Paris were set even more clearly and the following year in Warsaw in COP19, several specific important areas were discussed.

One for example is based on the recognition that deforestation not only is damaging in its own right, destroying the habitat of other species in highly biodiverse environments, threatening viability of rainforests – say the Amazon or the Congo Basin or the Indonesian archipelago – but when the rainforest is cut down or any forest is cut down, carbon dioxide is released into the air and that’s adding to the greenhouse effect like the burning of fossil fuels. And so the governments have increasingly recognized that storing carbon dioxide biologically, by preventing deforestation or supporting reforestation is crucial and in Warsaw in COP19, important agreements were reached around what’s called REDD+, we’ll be discussing that in a bit more detail, to really strengthen the biological storage of carbon in vegetation and in the forests.

Agreements were reached in more detail on what’s called monitoring reporting and verification so that we know what’s actually happening, who is releasing carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide flourine-based gases.

153We need to be able to monitor; we need a realistic and accurate reporting; we need to be able to verify the actual emissions if we’re going to have a meaningful, enforceable framework. And in Warsaw also a major push was made and it was shocking because Warsaw took place just as Typhoon Haiyan was slamming the Philippines. killing many many people the the losses and damage being experienced by poor countries needed compensation. Here are poor countries experiencing massive losses from human induced climate change that they’ve had almost nothing to do with, and yet they’re experiencing huge storms, rising sea levels, flood surges droughts, famine, and there has been no reliable way to get help. So they’re saying don’t call that aid, call that compensation for losses for damages and in principle that too was agreed in Warsaw. Now eyes are pointed on Lima, where on December 1 (2014) the draft of a new agreement, the one to be adopted in Paris a year later, will be tabled. December 1 is our date, and this course, I hope, will prepare us all to look at December 1 and say, hmm. What about this? What about that?’ To have the basis for analyzing that and for negotiating a global online agreement as global citizens in the second semester of this course, beginning early in 2015.154

And so we’re aiming towards COP20 in Lima in December as the place where the new draft agreement will be put. Now what do we want in that draft agreement? Of course fundamentally it is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at levels to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system, just as the treaty as the Framework Convention Center back in 1992 and continues to apply. What does that mean? Well here I think it’s helpful and here we’ll start what will be our long and deep investigation of the actual path of greenhouse gas emissions and especially of carbon dioxide emissions, the path that we’re on and the path that we need in order to be able to honor the 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit limit.  The path that we’re on is the dotted black line that you see in the left. The vertical axis measures the tons of carbon in billions of tons that are being emitted worldwide through energy use and other industrial processes. You see that as of 2014 that reaches about 10 billion tons  of carbon being released. The business as usual path is more or less that top red curve.

This is one of the scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and you see that the business as usual path would have emissions continuing to rise as the world economy continues to grow, as China becomes an even bigger economy, as India experiences rapid growth, as Africa escapes from poverty – all wonderful things if we continue with the technologies that we have right now there will be more oil, coal, and natural gas burned, more CO2 released into the atmosphere, probably more rainforest chopped down, releasing carbon dioxide through land use change, more other greenhouse gases also being emitted, though they’re not shown in this particular graph and we would have an upward curve and what would that upward curve suggest?

Well run those emissions through our best climate science and we’re not at a 2 degree centigrade limit. We’re at four degrees increase, six degrees even. There’s a range of uncertainty but we’re way way way beyond safety on the business as usual path. Well how could we get on a business as usual path? Really we have to stabilize the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that means we have to get down to 0 net emissions this century, We have to bed the curve rather than the curve continuing to rise. We need the lower curve shown in blue of the curve bending and then coming down and hitting 0 on the vertical axis somewhere perhaps around year 2070, and if you look at that graph, it says that by the middle of this century, we have to be less than half of the 10 billion tons of carbon that we’re emitting today, maybe somewhere around four billion tons of carbon by 2050 and then down to around 0 net emissions by 2070 or 2080.

Now it’s the whole purpose of this course in the detail to understand how could we turn that curve down? How could we take carbon emissions out of the energy system? How could we experience, achieve a deep decarbonization of the world economy. That’s what it means to turn that curve down, to deeply decarbonize the world economy, even to reach 0 towards the end of this century. Now one footnote important to understand sometimes you’ll see a graph or a table measured in terms up carbon emissions, sometimes you’ll see a graph or table measured in terms of carbon  dioxide emissions. You ought to be able to move flexibly between those two.

Now the point is that there’s an easy translation. If we’re putting a ton of carbon into the atmosphere, we’re putting more than a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere   because we’re putting that carbon in the ton of carbon plus the weight of the oxygen, the two atoms of oxygen, that go along with every atom of the carbon. So carbon dioxide per atom of carbon weighs more than than carbon alone. That’s obvious and chemistry reminds us how to make that translation of the weight of carbon dioxide relative to the weight of carbon. The atomic weight of carbon is 12, check back on the periodic table from your chemistry class and the weight of an atom of oxygen is sixteen so the weight of two atoms of oxygen is 32. Add the weight of the oxygen to the weight of the carbon the weight of carbon dioxide is therefore 44. If we add 10 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere we’re emitting ten times the ratio 44:12 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

155So let’s do the arithmetic. 44/12ths, the ratio the weight of CO1 to carbon, is 3.6666… or 3.667 let’s say and that means that if we are emitting 10 billion tons of carbon, that would be the same as a emitting 36.67 (billion) tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I want you to be very flexible on the two because you’ll otherwise be confused. When we go back and look at this graph, this is a graph of carbon but were often going to be referring to carbon dioxide emissions. But the point either way is the same. We need to bend the curve of emissions rather than a business as usual path which could take us to forty, fifty, even sixty billion tons of CO2 emitted per year compared to the roughly 36 billion tons now. We need to get down to maybe 12 or 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide by the middle of the century and down to 0 by 2070 or 2080.156

That’s the goal. That’s the commitment. It ain’t easy. It is not easy at all. Deep  decarbonisation is massive challenge and we’re going to have to find technologically meaningful, sophisticated, economically sensible pathways to it. That’s what we’re after. Now will we reach an agreement in time? Will COP21 prove to be the breakthrough for universal meaningful agreement that really turns the curve of carbon dioxide emissions down sharply.

Let’s be aware as we enter that discussion seriously of the obstacles. Many countries are not paying so much attention. They want to find and they want to burn more fossil fuels. That’s their economic base and we’re living in a period of a boom of some kinds of fossil fuel discovery and production. In the United States we have the shale gas boom. In other places the deep sea oil. In other geologic formations, what’s called tight oil, that otherwise could not be pumped through traditional means now can be extracted. And so there’s a hydrocarbons boom and a lot of money behind it that’s saying don’t stop our carbon emissions. Let’s go for even more discovery and development of our fossil fuels. There’s not high trust among the major countries.

Poor countries say rich countries make promises that they don’t live up to. Rich countries say the poor countries they’re stealing our industry. There are so many charges and counter-charges that the level of trust required for a deep agreement is something that we’re going to have to build actively and consciously over the coming year. There are many exit ramps, I would say, for politicians who want a good photo opportunity but not the very heavy responsibility of turning that emissions curve downward as deeply as possible. Some politicians say let’s make an agreement to 2025, just a short term  agreement; let’s not look too far into the future. And they want to do the easy things, the low-hanging fruit not the deep decarbonization pathways that are gonna be really required to get down to net 0 in the second half of the 21st century.157

Many countries say, not now, we don’t want to think about this. You know low-carbon energy systems are likely to be more expensive. Okay yes it’s true, we will wreck the planet but right now our priority is our budget. Our priority is unemployment. Our priority is starting growth. Don’t bother us about the long term. We have short-term political problems. Politicians today, they’re not going to be facing an election in the year 2050, they may be facing an election in the year 2016. And so how do we make a negotiating process face the long-term realities of the planet even when the incentives facing the negotiators may be very very much short term.

And finally we have a simple fact that absolutely needs to be emphasized but you’re gonna face it whether we emphasize it or not in the coming weeks, this is not an easy process technologically. You see, ever since James Watt brought the first really effective steam engine to the market in 1776 the world economy has developed with fossil fuels. In a way you have to love coal. It brought us the modern world.158

Oil brought us modern transportation, brought us the possibilities of aviation. Natural gas brings us a massive increase of access to electricity and I can tell you as I work in places that don’t have access to electricity because they’re so poor you don’t want to go there because without electricity there is no modern life. Without electricity there is desperate disease that can’t be brought under control, hunger, food that can’t be properly stored. Modern energy is a vital need for society. We want the world economy to continue to grow.

We want poor countries to develop. They will need to use more energy and therefore the technological challenge of recognizing the reality of a world economy that has developed for more than two centuries on the basis of fossil fuels, that wants to develop more energy resources to enable the poor to escape the trap of poverty, that wants to help promote economic development and improvements of material conditions, but also to decarbonize the energy system is a first order technological, systems, economic, social, and political challenge. It’s hard, its  complex, it’s the topic of the lectures to come.

Towards a New Climate Change Agreement IV

From Kyoto to Copenhagen

We’re talking about the path to COP21, to the conference of the parties 21st year in Paris in 2015, a bit over a year from now. And I’ve been recounting the history of the climate change science and the climate change action. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC, was the high water mark, in a way; 1992 Rio Earth Summit world leaders got together; they adopted a solid convention, a solid treaty, which you’ve read now I hope. And it’s a well thought-out treaty. It said let the Annex 1 countries, the high-income world, lead the way to preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. And after the treaty went into force in 1994, the conference of the parties, that is all the countries that are signatories to the convention, began to meet.

Berlin was COP1, Kyoto was COP3, and by the third meeting of the parties at the convention it was time to implement a protocol to put the convention into real implementation.141

This is the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto Protocol is the only protocol that we have agreed for actually implementing the UN Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol was put in place in 1997. And it had a period, a vigilance period, of force till 2012. And it accomplished a little bit but not enough to really change the needle, change the course of the planet as we hurl along towards more and more human-induced climate change. Well remember that the US government as it went off to Kyoto to join in the negotiations at the Kyoto Protocol was given warning by pretty obstreperous US Senate, which in the Byrd- Hagel amendment it voted 95-nothing to say don’t you sign that protocol unless the developing country parties are also taking on obligations.

But the developing country parties in Kyoto had a rather different view and and I think the right one from the point of view of international law. Certainly they said read the UN Framework Convention. The UN Framework Convention spells out very very clearly that it is the high-income countries, the countries on the list of Annex 1, including the United States and Europe and Japan and the countries of the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe that have to move first. These are the rich countries; they have the technology; they’re the ones that are putting the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere; they’re the ones that have been doing that for decades; and so the ones that bear the historic responsibility historical responsibility for raising and co2 concentrations in the first place and thereby putting the whole planet at peril. So that was a collision course already in play.

What happened at Kyoto? The Kyoto Protocol was adopted, was adopted by the Annex 1 countries and it covers the Annex 1 countries. It says that the high income world will take specific responsibilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the period 2008 to 2012 as a group Annex 1 countries agreed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent compared with the 1990 level. Now here’s a problem that we’ll be discussing in a bit more detail shortly.

You have many greenhouse gases. Six main anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide (N3), and flourine based industrial gases. So how can we talk about 5 percent reduction? Does it mean percent of each one or by what metric should this be measured? And here will introduce a concept of the carbon dioxide equivalent of each of these greenhouse gases. By measuring how each greenhouse gas changes the planet, warms the planet, creates a greenhouse effect relative to the effect of the carbon dioxide molecule we’re able to take a sumation across the 6 human-induced greenhouse gases to come up with an overall measure, which is called the carbon dioxide equivalent of the six greenhouse gases combined. And what the Annex 1 countries said is that they would reduce the emissions a that aggregate measured as carbon dioxide equivalent by 5 percent compared to the 1990 emission levels of this group of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. I should mention parenthetically, why do I keep saying anthropogenic greenhouse gases or remember human caused greenhouse gases? It’s because there’s another very very important greenhouse gas.142

Water, which is not anthropogenic; it’s a naturally occurring greenhouse gas; it’s affected in its concentration in the atmosphere by human activity because as the atmosphere warms the atmosphere also holds more water and that water vapor has a greenhouse effect but the anthropogenic or human-caused greenhouse gases are the ones that humanity is directly putting into the atmosphere through industrial or other activities.

Now in the Kyoto Protocol, each country also took on a specific commitment of reducing its own emissions or increasing it to a limited amount as a national standard, in addition to this group commitment by the annex 1 countries of a five percent reduction. Some countries said will reduce our emissions by six percent or by eight percent. Some were even given some space for a small increase of greenhouse gas emissions because of their particular economic circumstances.

So the aggregate had to add up to a five percent overall reduction, and each country took a specific individual commitment. Then the Kyoto Protocol added a number of other features. It was not directed at specific commitments by non annex 1, that is developing countries, indeed as the original Framework Convention made clear the first efforts should start with the high-income countries. But the Kyoto Protocol invented particular mechanism, actually set of mechanisms, in this case called the Clean Development Mechanisms, to enable developing countries to join in the action in one way or another by saying we’ll take steps to reduce our own emissions voluntarily, we’re not bound at this stage by the Protocol or by the Treaty but to reduce those emissions voluntarily if someone will help us pay to do that and by the rules of the game, countries that had their own binding limits were able to perhaps exceed the limits in their own domestic emissions by engaging emissions reduction through a Clean Development Mechanism in developing countries. In other words the idea was a fairly complicated and indeed it became a pretty complicated set of mechanisms, not happily successful set of mechanisms, to link developing countries in through a voluntary but supervised approved set of means to enable rich countries to meet some of their obligations by undertaking emissions reduction projects in developing countries.

Well what can we say about the outco143mes the Kyoto Protocol. Fairly complicated. The one thing we can surely say is that the Kyoto Protocol did not succeed in changing fundamentally the direction of Earth as a whole, humanity as a whole, in heading towards massive climate damage. Interestingly the Annex 1 countries as a group, as a group, did meet 25 percent reduction. This happened in part because of actions that some of these countries took. It happened in part because of a big recession that hit the world in 2008 thereby reducing industrial activity and burning of fossil fuels. That happened in part because in the post-communist, so-called transition era, in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, there was a very big drop of emissions in many countries as those countries experienced a massive transformation from the very heavy industrialization of the Soviet era. So as a group the Annex 1 countries did get the emissions down by a little bit above the five percent threshold but the fact of the matter is many countries never lived up to the Kyoto Protocol.

First on the list, the United States, not only did it not live up to the Kyoto Protocol, it never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. As I have mentioned President Clinton didn’t send it to the Senate. President Bush took the United States out entirely said forget it we’re not even gonna try. And several other major fossil fuel producing and using countries that were signatories to the Kyoto Protocol all along basically just threw them off and ended up not taking them very seriously at all.

I would mention in this list two very important countries. They’re big, advanced, technologically sophisticated and major producers of fossil fuels. These are Canada and Australia. Canada discovered how to use its vast heavy oil in Western Canada in the province of Alberta to produce petroleum for world markets. Saw riches before its eyes and said were not really going to meet Kyoto Protocol. Australia is one of the great coal producing countries of the world, and coal exporting countries in the world. Australia had a minerals boom over the last twenty years. It’s become a major provider of coal for the rapidly-growing Chinese economy and Australia also said it can’t meet the conditions and basically failed to honor the Kyoto Protocol. This graphic shows in red many of the countries that fell short of what they had promised to do back in 1997 and many of the countries in blue that outperformed the reduction of greenhouse gases that they had promised in 1997.

A mixed bag. Some countries acted, other countries did not. In the aggregate, partly because of action and partly because economic circumstance the Annex 1 countries slightly reduced their emissions relative to 1990 as Kyoto called. But some failed. The United States a did not take action, even though in the end it has had a modest reduction of emissions by now partly because of economic circumstances. But one can say the following overall point about the Kyoto Protocol: whether the Annex 1 countries did or didn’t, came close, fell behind from their specific commitments, the world as a whole has continued to have a very very strong overall increase of carbon dioxide emissions and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, that means adding in co2, nitrous oxide, methane and the flourine-based industrial gases.

144That has not slowed. Why is that? That’s because in fact while the Annex 1 countries were the dominant users of fossil fuels up to UN Framework Convention and are still the rich countries in the world with the highest per person emissions of greenhouse gases the fact of the matter is that the non-annex one countries, the developing countries, experienced a surge of energy use, surge of economic development, and therefore a surge greenhouse gas emissions after 1997. When you add in the non-annex 1 country emissions with the annex 1 country emissions, boy we have missed the point. In a sense you could say that the US Senate had a little bit of a point  saying, well the developing countries are gonna have to do something. But they didn’t have a moral or legal sense at all. The Annex 1 countries were right to say that the world had promised let the industrial world start this effort. What’s clear though is that arithmetically, when you look at the massive growth China, the other emerging middle income economies, the overall growth of the developing countries as a whole, the massive increase in fossil fuel use the in the developing countries the Kyoto Protocol did not really change the direction of the world. In terms of the upward march year by year, of more and more emissions of greenhouse gases, and therefore a trajectory of very very dangerous climate change.

Nothing like the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. Now this realization was more and more apparent in the early years. The previous decade, of course the withdrawal the US from the Kyoto Protocol was a shock, the rise of China and the world economy was an economic miracle, a great economic success, and also an amazement for the world. The fact that China is a coal-burning economy was becoming such a major emitter of carbon dioxide was also a wake-up call to a need to do more. And from Kyoto through each of the COP meetings Kyoto being COP3 and and onward, the realization came – we’re going to need a new approach. And in any event the Kyoto Protocol was set to end in 2012. So when it came to the 15th of these meetings COP15 in Copenhagen, with President Obama newly-elected promising action, with the realization that the Kyoto Protocol was nearing its expiration, with China having entered the ranks of one of the world’s most important economies and having overtaken the United States as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, the eyes were put on COP15 in Copenhagen.

This is the time. We need to make a change and COP15 in Copenhagen was the great hope in 2009 that a new approach and a new breakthrough would be met. Indeed it was the greatest gathering of world leaders on Climate Change really since the Rio Earth Summit. 115 heads of state and government came to Copenhagen. President Obama is newly elected, the highly popular US President was there, the chinese leadership, the world’s leaders assembled and this was going to be the place to make the breakthrough. The hope was that there would be an agreement in which both the Annex 1 and the non-Annex 1 countries jointly would  commit to real action, that we would be able to take a step of realism in which there would be an effective and fair allocation of responsibilities and a new approach would be made.

And it was at that point recognized that the world could actually define, based on the science, at least a limit that we must not surpass in global warming. That was the idea that many scientists had put forward, that the European Union was championing, that a two degree celsius increase of temperature would be extremely dangerous to exceed and two degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit was put as the limit. Do not cross this boundary! To go beyond the two-degree Celsius limit was rightly recognized as extraordinarily dangerous and as we’ll be discussing in the future lectures. So Copenhagen: here’s the big hope. A two degree C limit; a universal agreement; financing of specific amounts, indeed a hundred billion dollars a year for developing countries from developed countries by the year 2022 to enable the developing countries both to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the ongoing climate change.

Big hopes. Great drama. Last-minute negotiations. And it wasn’t to be. The leaders just couldn’t reach an agreement. They made some declarations. They made some notable announcements – the two degrees Celsius limit, the hundred billion dollars a year – but they couldn’t agree and it was a huge emotional deflation. A huge political deflation. Kyoto hadn’t worked. Copenhagen would be it. Copenhagen collapsed and in a way we’re still picking up the pieces. It is from Copenhagen to Paris now that we put our great hopes and we resolve, all the world leaders are resolved, don’t have the Copenhagen experience again in Paris in 2015 at COP21. Let’s find a path to real success.

Towards a New Climate Change Agreement III


UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The climate scientists have been telling us for almost 200 years that the Earth depends on its atmosphere, change the atmosphere chemistry and we’re gonna change the climate. Change the atmosphere chemistry a lot, by burning coal, oil, and gas, and we’ll change the climate a lot and we’ll threaten our own well-being and the well-being even the survival of millions of other species.131

Well it’s taken a long time for that warning to be heard, and it was in recent decades when the climate science became clearer and clearer that humanity at least began to take note. We need to do something. This growing world population and expanding world economy pressing against the planetary boundaries is a threat to human well-being. I want to review how we have gotten to our current circumstance today, a circumstance were the climate risk is understood, where we have a legal framework to do something about it, and yet where we have been unable to take the deep actions that we are going to need to take to head off the grave dangers that we ourselves are causing.

An absolutely critical point in that story is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or the UNFCCC. This is the legally binding framework that the world’s governments agreed to in 1992 to confront the challenge of human-induced climate change. You’ll be reading the UNFCCC – I always wonder if I get the right number of C’s in there. There are three of them – the Convention on Climate Change. You’ll be reading this document and really I hope marveling at the insight, the precedence, the clarity that this important treaty reflects, but one of the deep questions for us to ponder this semester is why is it that, twenty-two years after adopting the Framework Convention, we feel a bit paralyzed.

Here we have an international law. It makes sense. We have a framework for action and yet we have not acted. So now I want to understand how we got to that framework, what it has meant, and then we will carry on to understand better what its limitations have been. I think our story in modern times really does start in 1972. It starts for me then. I was a freshman in college. Actually the first book in economics that I was assigned was Limits to Growth, which is a book very much of its time produced by the Club of Rome which said that we would have a collision of the growing world economy on a finite planet. Unfortunately, perhaps typically, many of my economics teachers said ‘don’t worry so much about that; that’s not so realistic.132

But the fact of the matter is it too was a precient warning. Well 1972 was the year that the world’s governments first came together on an environmental summit to recognize the fact that we have a global scale problem. This was a famous conference on the environment in Stockholm, Sweden. It did get the global environmental movement off the ground. That summit plus Limits to Growth, opened the eyes of the world to the problems that we face all around that planetary boundary circle. Well back in 1979 was the first time that experts got together globally to analyze the climate crisis, which by now was becoming established science, still not quantified, still too early to demonstrate in actual experience in many places, but there was growing evidence that humanity was indeed warming the planet and changing the climate.

And 1979 marked the first the world climate conference. In the nineteen eighties, attention shifted to another global planetary boundary and that is the fragile ozone level, the O3 molecules in the stratosphere, and by chance by brilliance of scientists like Paul Crutzen and by chance that Crutzen and other great scientists began to study the problem they realized almost accidentally that some industrial chemicals, the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs which were thought to be safe, inert compounds used for aerosol cans and used as refrigerants would actually not be so inert when they entered the upper atmosphere, the stratosphere, and these great scientists realized that these chlorofluorocarbons would dissociate and the chlorine atom in these compounds would actually have an atmospheric chemical effect of destroying ozone. And as the chlorine interacted with the O3 and destroyed the ozone, there would be a decline of the ozone concentrations in the atmosphere.134

Well the producers of these chlorofluorocarbons, the big companies said that’s another hoax science. That’s generally what they always say when confronted with the problem. But then NASA used satellite imagery to suddenly show the world we have a big hole in the ozone level over Antarctica and suddenly this chemistry was shown to be real and this change of the atmospheric chemistry quickly led to an agreement called the Montreal Protocol to phase out these chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. I mention this in the context of climate change because it is the vivid example of understanding that human caused change of atmospheric chemistry could threaten humanity and could require us to have a global agreement to stop the human-induced change of atmospheric chemistry. And in this case it worked because the companies that made the chlorofluorocarbons came up with alternatives that were not perfectly safe but we’re safer than the CFC’s. And they and the United States government and others said okay let’s get together and phase out the CFC’s. It’s a bit of a model, not a perfect one but it’s a bit of a precedent for what we need to do now.

The only problem is that CFC’s, the chlorofluorocarbons, were used in aerosol cans and as refrigerants, whereas fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – they’re used in everything. The whole world economy  depends on them; so phasing them out, we’re gonna see, is a much more complicated challenge. Well I think that this realization about the fragility of the atmospheric chemistry and direct scientific linkages indeed between CFCs and greenhouse gases intensified the scientific search for understanding human-induced climate change and a very very important scientific process was created called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC and you’re going to be reading the fifth assessment round (AR5) of the IPCC, which is being published during this very year. Now the IPCC is a careful process of the world scientists to assess and summarize for policymakers what is known about human-induced climate change.

The IPCC started in 1988. It issued its first assessment round reports in 1990. They were rather striking because they said this is real, it’s serious, we need to do something about it. So when the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm conference came around, there was the next global environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro. We know it as the Earth Summit, the 1992 Earth Summit. In many ways it was a glorious occasion. In fact up until now, one would say that it was the very apex of the world environmental movement because world leaders from all over the world assembled in Rio in 1992 to take on several absolutely crucial questions of planetary boundaries and the core of those were 3. First, climate change.

Building on the IPCC’s report. Second, biological diversity. Building on the growing realization that human-induced climate change, pollution, deforestation, ocean acidification, and other human-caused factors  were threatening the survival of other species. And the third, which also was a response to human devastation of droughts in Africa in the 1980’s, was the challenge of the spreading deserts in the world as dry land regions became less and less hospitable in many places in the world and that is the challenge of combating desertification. Well here you see a platform of some of the world leaders who assembled in June 1992 in Rio. And Rio produced three great treaties. It produced the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, it produced the convention on biological diversity, or CBD, and it produced the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Three really quite remarkable documents. Of course our focus is on the Framework Convention on Climate Change.135

The Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed in the spring of 1992. It was endorsed at the Rio Earth Summit a couple months after the formal draft had been agreed. And then as is true of UN conventions, it was sent out to member states for  ratification and when enough adopted it, it went into force in 1994. Now what is the purpose of the UNFCCC? As you see here the ultimate objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere quote, “At a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system.” Hmm. What does that mean? First greenhouse gases. I’ve talked a lot about carbon dioxide, now it’s time to let you in on another fact, which of course many have you know. It’s not only carbon dioxide. It’s not only carbon dioxide and water vapor, which I’ve mentioned briefly. It’s a number of other human-caused chemical changes in the atmosphere that also have the greenhouse or the warning affect.

This includes methane; it includes nitrous oxide; and it includes a number of flourine based chemical gases that are used in industry also for refrigerants like the CFC’s have been used. So, what the UNFCCC said was because science tells us as the greenhouse gas concentrations rise we warm the planet, and that warming is dangerous, we have to stop the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We have to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in order to prevent dangerous anthropogenic – anthropose: human, genic: caused – and other words dangerous human-caused interference in the climate system. Interestingly they didn’t say to stop global warming because that’s just one part up human-induced climate change. Climate change includes changes in storm patterns; it includes changes in drought frequency, flood frequency; it includes other changes such as rising ocean levels or changes in the chemistry of the oceans that are also extremely dangerous for humanity. So the UN Framework Convention talks more generally about dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. Now this is a complicated task; indeed our whole semester will be discussing how we can meet this standard.

How can we meet it technologically and how can we meet it fairly, especially when the world’s countries, world’s economies are in such different circumstances. Some are super-rich like the United States using vast amounts of coal, oil, and gas, putting huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And others are just as poor as can be where people can’t afford an automobile so they don’t use petroleum and burn\ petroleum they don’t even have access to electricity in a gas-fired power generation plant. And so there’s some countries that use almost no fossil fuels and yet they suffer the consequences of climate change. Other countries perhaps use vast amounts of fossil fuels and don’t have so much direct impact or are able to buffer themselves at least for a while against human induced climate change because they’re so rich. And so one of the challenges of the Framework Convention was how to make this fair.136

How to make the human response fair. How to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in a way that was not only effective, not only efficient in terms of trying to keep the costs of action to the minimum, but also fair in distributing the burdens across the world especially between the rich and poor countries. And as will be seeing in the UNFCC the answer was, ‘let the rich countries take the first steps,’ and the rich countries in this agreement are called, because of the way that an annex is attached to the document, Annex 1 countries. The Annex 1 countries are basically the rich countries and the post-communist countries of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. And the treaty said, ‘you guys go first. Let the poor countries have more time for adjustment. Let the rich countries, which bear the historical responsibility for raising the co2 levels and have the wealth and the technology take the lead.’ And the standard that was applied is called CBDR. That’s a another one of these acronyms of global diplomacy. Common But Differentiated Responsibilities. Common in that the whole world has to have a responsibility but differentiated because countries differ by their income levels by their circumstances by their vulnerability and by their capacities and therefore their responsibilities also differ. Now this UN Framework Convention also said rich countries would help poor countries to face the challenge of climate change and that countries should give regular reports. It’s a hugely important treaty. It was signed by the United States and just about every other country in the world almost immediately after the Earth Summit.

The US Senate ratified this treaty in October 1992, just a few months after the Rio Earth Summit. And then what happened? Well then the country that at the time was the number one burner of fossil fuel, the United States, the country that still has the biggest historical responsibility, looking back at which country has most changed the global chemistry, the United States said Uh uh. We’re not doing more.

The US Senate in a resolution passed in 1997, called the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, passed by 95 to nothing, said, ‘Nope. We don’t accept Annex 1 responsibility the way that we actually ratified in this treaty. We won’t move until some the developing countries –  China very much on the mind of the Senate – moves. And I will just quote. It says, ‘The United States should not be a signatory to any protocol or to any other agreement regarding the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992 at negotiations in Kyoto or elsewhere, which would mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gases unless the protocol also mandates new specific scheduled commitments for developing country parties.’ In other words, the Senate said we don’t quite accept this common but differentiated responsibility built into the treaty, where the Annex 1 countries, of which the United States was top of the list, would move first.137

This  Senate said we will only move together with other developing countries. Now what is this language about protocols and Kyoto and so forth. This is very important for us to understand The UNFCCC is a convention. A convention is a treaty but a treaty has to be implemented and in the UN parlance a convention is implemented by a protocol. When it came to ozone, we had a convention called the Vienna Convention. It was implemented by the Montreal Protocol. When it comes to climate change we have a convention, the UN Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change but we need a protocol to implement. And the first attempt at such a protocol was the Kyoto Protocol sign in 1997. You see, after the Framework Convention was adopted, the parties to the Convention would meet every year. These are called the Conference of the Parties or COP. And the Paris negotiations in December 2015 will be the twenty first such meeting or COP21. The first of these meetings was COP1 in Berlin in 1995. The third such meeting was in Kyoto. The idea of the Kyoto COP3 was to adopt a protocol, hence the Kyoto Protocol in which the Annex 1 countries would take responsibility to implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Now the United States signed it but President Clinton, president at the time, never submitted it to the US Senate because the Senate said don’t even come close.

We’re not going to adopt this protocol. And then in 2001 when President George W. Bush became president, President Bush formally took the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol, said I’m never going to submit it to the Senate. We’re just not going to be party to it. So this is the rather grim start of implementation of the UN Framework Convention signed in 1992, quickly ratified, hailed the world over as the world getting its act together. Three great treaties coming out of the Rio Earth Summit, ratified by the United States Senate, the Framework Convention. By the way to Senate never even ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, but by 1997 the Senate said no way. The protocol to implement the Convention was adopted. The United States wanted to have nothing to do with it. When we move forward we’re going to look at what the Kyoto Protocol did and didn’t do and how it has brought us to our current situation.