Gap in Policy and its Real World Implementation

Posted by By at 10 March, at 17 : 44 PM Print

Gap in Policy and its Real World Implementation


In the recent history of our planet, humans have by far been the most successful species to survive and flourish. From the highly arid deserts to the extreme cold in the poles, there’s no place present that man has not yet inhabited. The present human population is approximately 7 billion and has encompassed our planet completely. With the human civilisation currently in the Information Age, the natural landscapes and ecosystems have undergone a sea change due to our activities that sped up during the past two millenniums especially in the last two centuries. Deforestation, Mining, Fishing, Hunting, Colonization, Transportation and numerous such human activities have wrecked havoc on the natural processes.

According to the American Meteorological Society, there is a 90 percent probability that global temperatures will rise by 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius (6.3 to 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit) in less than one hundred years, with even greater increases over land and the poles. These seemingly minor shifts in temperature could trigger widespread disasters in the form of rising sea levels, violent and volatile weather patterns, desertification, famine, water shortages, and other secondary effects including conflicts too.

In the early 1970’s, humans became slightly aware of the possible impacts they might have had on the environment including climate change. So, there were studies in order to fact- check the correlation between human activities and climate change. These were the first to provide scientific data confirming the theory of climate change. The First World Climate was organized in 1979, which identified climate change as an urgent world-wide problem which could be worked upon by formation of a proper framework to address it.  A few years later the ‘World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security’ gathered hundreds of scientists and others in Toronto. They concluded that the changes in the atmosphere due to human pollution “represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe,” and declared that by 2005 the world should push its emissions some 20% below the 1988 level.

Simultaneously, in 1988, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) was established by the United Nations General Assembly . The IPCC provides an internationally accepted authority on climate change, by producing reports which have the agreement of leading climate scientists and the consensus of participating governments.  Another landmark global treaty on climate change was The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was opened for signature at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro (known by its popular title, the Earth Summit). On 12 June 1992, 154 nations signed the UNFCCC, that upon ratification committed signatories’ governments to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of “preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system”.

One of the most controversial protocol’s in the history of was The Kyoto Protocol. It’s an international treaty that sets binding obligations on industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The Protocol “recognises that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, and places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. There are 192 parties to the convention, including 191 states (all the UN members, except Andorra, Canada, South Sudan and the United States) and the European Union. The Protocol was adopted by Parties to the UNFCCC in 1997, and entered into force in 2005.

As part of the Kyoto Protocol, many developed countries have agreed to legally binding limitations/reductions in their emissions of greenhouse gases in two commitments periods. The first commitment period applies to emissions between 2008-2012, and the second commitment period applies to emissions between 2013-2020. The protocol was amended in 2012 to accommodate the second commitment period, but this amendment has (as of January 2013) not entered into legal force.

The treaty recognizes that developed countries have contributed the most to the anthropogenic build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (around 77% of emissions between 1750 and 2004), and that carbon dioxide emissions per person in developing countries (2.9 tonnes in 2010) are, on average, lower than emissions per person in developed countries (10.4 tonnes in 2010).

The United States signed but did not ratify the Protocol and Canada withdrew from it in 2011.

To understand the implications these actions had on Kyoto Protocol, we asked the opinion of Mr.Brice Lalonde, who was the Executive Coordinator of UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) . Mr.Brice says that he was shocked when he heard of Canada’s decision to move out of the Kyoto protocol .


The 37 parties with binding targets in the second commitment period are Australia, the European Union (and its 28 member states), Belarus, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have stated that they may withdraw from the Protocol or not put into legal force the Amendment with second round targets. Japan, New Zealand, and Russia have participated in Kyoto’s first-round but have not taken on new targets in the second commitment period. Other developed countries without second-round targets are Canada (which withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012) and the United States (which has not ratified the Protocol).

The US has a Kyoto target of a 6% reduction relative to the 1990 level, but has not ratified the treaty. Emissions in the US have increased 11% since 1990, and according to Olivier et al. (2011), it will be unable to meet its original Kyoto target.

If the US had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the average percentage reduction in total GHG emissions for the Annex I group would have been a 5.2% reduction relative to the base year. Including the US in their calculation, Olivier et al. (2011) projected that the Annex I countries would collectively achieve a 7% reduction relative to the base year, which is lower than the original target of a 5.2% reduction. This projection excludes expected purchases of emissions credits.

At the global scale, existing policies appear to be too weak to prevent global warming exceeding 2 or 1.5 degrees Celsius, relative to the pre-industrial level. In November 2011, the International Energy Agency warned that the world may be fast approaching a tipping point concerning climate change, and suggested that the next five years will be crucial for greenhouse gas reduction efforts.


The Warsaw climate conference in November 2013 sent a strong signal that all countries need to start doing their ‘homework’ to prepare their contributions to reducing or limiting emissions under the 2015 agreement.

The new agreement will be adopted in 2015, at the Paris climate conference, and implemented from 2020. It will take the form of a protocol, another legal instrument or ‘an agreed outcome with legal force’, and will be applicable to all Parties. It is being negotiated through a process known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.


At the launch of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changeseventeenth Conference of Parties (COP-17) in Durban, South Africa, many climate change experts were concerned that the Kyoto Protocol could expire in 2012 with no secondary legally binding accord on limiting global emissions in place. This fear, however, was somewhat assuaged as the nearly two hundred countries present at the COP-17 approved an extension of the protocol through 2017 and potentially 2020. A decision was also reached at the meeting to draft a successor accord to the Kyoto Protocol by 2015, which would ultimately come into force in 2020. Delegates also envisioned that the new accord would include greenhouse gas emissions targets for all countries, regardless of their level of economic development. This framework notably contrasts with that of the Kyoto Protocol, which primarily focuses on reducing emissions emanating from developed countries.



All Parties agreed to put forward their intended contributions well in advance of the Paris conference, and by the first quarter of 2015 if they are ready to do so.

Since the contributions are ‘intended’, this implies that, once they are tabled, there will be a period when they could be revised if necessary to ensure that, collectively, the contributions are sufficient to keep global warming below 2°C.

Based on a proposal by the European Commission, the EU is discussing setting itself a 2030 emissions reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels. These discussions are taking place in the context of the development of a comprehensive climate and energy policy framework for 2030.

The 2015 agreement will have to bring together the current patchwork of binding and non-binding arrangements under the UN climate convention into a single comprehensive regime.

The EU, a few other European countries and Australia have agreed to join a legally binding second period of the Kyoto Protocol which runs until 2020, while over 70 other countries – both developed and developing – have made different types of non-binding commitments to reduce, or limit the growth in, their greenhouse gas emissions.


The Governments world over as well as huge Non-Governmental Organisations have realized this and have proactively started working to remedy it by making policies and recognize the need to enforce them, in order to make a difference


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