UN Climate Change Jargon
This past month, New York City was abuzz with demonstrations, world leaders, industry leaders, bankers and world media, who descended to participate in Climate Summit 2014. Amongst the many rosy things discussed, some key takeaways were;
- The financial commitments made by private sector/industry players of the tune of a few billion dollars to United Nation Green Climate Fund (GCF),
- Promise of developing financial instruments like ‘green bonds’ by bankers,
- Tangible commitments made by companies to do their part in reducing deforestation, and
- Planning the next meeting at another exotic location of the planet!
Every time there is a major UN event related to climate change, I scurry to Wiki every term I come across. Usually, there is so much going on in these events, from fancy demonstrations to world leaders dozing off during key presentations to celebrity appearances to emotionally charged speeches by speakers barely in their teens that getting one’s head around the crux of the matters takes time. Hence, I decided to write a short excerpt which gives a big picture overview of the path and journey taken by United Nations so far, in the direction of reducing the human impact on the planet leading to global climate change phenomenon.
As a start, United Nations has a mindboggling number of committees and sub-committees to discuss this matter. And, as expected (in the same breath!) decisions out of those discussions are painfully slow to come by. You’ll basically hear about these committees, their reports, and the decisions which come out of those committees time and again.
In late 1980s, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC was setup to initiate the discussion between governments. It largely comprises of scientists, meteorologist, and other scholars who jointly develop technical reports which drive policy discussions. The lag between a report and corresponding policy action can span years if not decades.
In mid 1990s, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC came into effect. It’s a policy framework officially agreed upon or ‘ratified’ by 195 countries. The UNFCCC text was adopted at the ‘Rio Convention’ in Brazil. Broadly speaking, some of the things agreed upon in its text are:
- Scientific evidence proves that climate is changing substantially;
- Human activities have direct impact on climatic changes;
- Largest share of emissions leading to climate change is from developed countries;
- Global cooperation is required to mitigate climate change; and
- Technical and financial support is required by developing countries to fight climate change.
The differentiation between developed and developing countries in the policy framework set seed for a deep rift between the two groups of countries regarding climate policies, in the coming years.
Then came Kyoto Protocol, or KP, which took effect on Feb 16, 2005. It is one of the first policy actions, not just talk! However, KP’s structure is based on UNFCCC text. KP talks about, “common but differentiated responsibility” which is a way to state that developed countries will share the greater share of the burden to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions as opposed to developing countries as they are largely responsible for the current high levels of emissions in the atmosphere. Conceptually, KP has two major components. The first was binding emissions reductions commitments (for a finite time called “commitment period”) for developed countries. In other words, there was only so much GHG a country can emit (called “emissions target”). For ease of use, all greenhouse gases were converted into a common metric called, CO2-equivalent. The second component was to develop market-based mechanisms to enable developed countries meet their emissions targets set by KP, wherein the developed countries can abate GHG emissions by making green investments in developing countries. The first KP commitment period ended in 2012. There were subsequent amendments to KP but a whole new policy action is in the works.
Abhay is trained as architect and has more than seven years of project managerial experience working with buildings of all kinds. Currently, he works with ETS as Senior Project Manager. He helps blend design, data, technology, and people to continually improve efficiencies on both the load and supply side of energy in built environment. He recently co-authored the ebook, ‘The Non-Technical Guide to Managing Energy in Buildings’ available on Amazon.
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