UNFCCC And Its Impact on Different Countries

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change) And Its Impact On Different Countries.

This paper basically talks about as to how this convention of the United Nations came into force. Topics like climate change, the main reason behind this convention being started in the year 1992, role of the member countries in this conventions towards the reduction of the Green House Gases and the finally the role of India and the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change in this convention and the steps taken by India to reduce the emissions of the green house gases in the environment have been discussed in the paper. In the end the article talks about how even though this is such an important convention which dealing with such a hot topic yet due to its non binding policy, countries are not taking it seriously and thus we are still a long away from achieving the target Earth’s temperature.

Introduction
The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty between nearly 197 countries to reduce the emissions of green house gases in our environment so that we can save our planet Earth for our future generations . This Convention does not have any legal obligations on its member countries. It does set a limit on the amount of green house gases that can be emitted in the atmosphere but still the countries are not bound by such a limit. The Convention itself talks about the fact that there can be other treaties and agreements between the countries that can help in achieving the objective of this convention. The exact words used in the UNFCCC regarding the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted are “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.” Then the convention tells us that all of this stabilization of the greenhouse gas in the environment should be achieved within a specific time frame so that the environment is able to adapt this amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and then not disturb the production of food grains so that we humans and our environment grow together hand in hand in a sustainable manner . At that time when this convention was held it was very difficult to prove that there was a lot of environmental degrading activities that were going on in this world because there was no scientific evidence to prove it. But still UNFCCC took inspiration from the Montreal Protocol of 1987 and thus made sure that the member countries worked towards the human safety and protection which was only possible when our environment is safe from all the polluting activities . So in order to achieve such an objective the Convention made sure that there was a differentiation between the countries according to their development and their contribution towards the greenhouse gas emissions. So, for this purpose the convention divided the countries as developed, developing and under developed.

The Annex 1 parties include the industrialized countries that were members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 1992, plus countries with economies in transition (the EIT Parties), including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States. These were those countries that are developed and also the fact that they contributed the maximum towards the GHG emissions, they were included in Annex 1. Thus, the countries included in Annex 1 are Australia, Greece, Norway, New Zealand, USA, UK etc. The duty of the Annex 1 countries is to make National Policies for their own countries so that they are able to mitigate the climate change and then reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Annex 2 are those countries which are part of he OECD but not the part of EIT. These countries are supposed to give in financial resources and support to the other developing countries so that the are able to make their own emissions reduction plans and policies and then help them to adapt to the effects of the climate change. Then there are the Non Annex parties or those countries that are financially or technically not that strong due to which they cannot handle the effects of the climate change and thus they have to be given financial support from other countries to bring in new policies for themselves. India as it is a developing country and thus does not have the financial resources to bring about new changes and policies thus it is a Non Annex country according to the UNFCCC . All these 197 countries that are the members of this convention and who also ratified such a convention are called the Parties to Convention.

The Rio Earth Summit in the year 1992 adopted 3 Conventions and one of them being the UNFCCC. Thus, the ultimate aim of these three conventions and especially UNFCCC is to minimise the dangerous human intervention with the climatic system . The members of this Convention have formed themselves into a Conference of Parties (herein referred to as COP) so that they are able to meet every year and discuss about adopting new practices and bringing up new rules so that they are able to achieve the goals and objective of UNFCCC. They also assess in the practice of checking the progress of their actions towards climate change. “The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements .” Then there are United Nations Climate Change Conferences that are held on a yearly basis for the COP of UNFCCC so that they assess each country work towards the climate change. And also after the 1990’s they started to discuss about the Kyoto Protocol so that they could make the developed countries legal bound to reduce the emission of green house gages into the atmosphere.

This project has been divided into 5 chapters along with the conclusion in the end.The 1st chapter gives a brief introduction about the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement and their effect on the world’s climate change.

Chapter 2 mainly focusses on India’s role in this convention and as to how today India is contributing towards climate change even though it is not legally bound by this United Nations Convention.

Chapter 3 talks about the contributions and roles of developed countries especially USA in this convention. And as to how Annex I countries according to the Convention should be made more responsible for bringing in new rules to help curb down climatic degradation.

Chapter 4 is mainly about the criticism of this convention and as to how every country should be held responsible for the amount of activities that the do which brings about environmental degradation. In the end the project has got conclusion in which the author will try to summarise everything along with the author’s point of view and any suggestions if any. 

I. Chapter 1- Brief introduction to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement This chapter will only have a brief summary about the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement ad their Impact on India and other countries. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement made due to the UNFCCC, which makes sure that the member parties or the countries that are part of this Protocol make rules regarding the emissions of the Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and also that these rules should be legally binding to all the members . This Protocol was adopted in Kyoto in 1997 and then it entered into force in 2005 and it for 4 years only from 2008 to 2012. It was COP 7 in Marrakesh Morocco in 2001 that it came into implementation . What this Protocol says is that in our world there are some developed countries and then there are some developing countries. And that, those countries which fall into the former category are called as developed because of the past 150 years’ heavy industrialisation. The Protocol links this heavy industrialisation as one of the main reasons for climatic change and environmental degradation. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol under the heads of ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’ says that the developed countries who enjoy such power and recognition should be given more responsibility and liability to take care of our degrading environment and make appropriate rules to save it for future generation.

The Kyoto Protocol has got 3 rules or policies that help in achieving the UNFCCC goals and these are-
1. Clean Development Mechanism
2. Joint Implementation
3. International Emission Trading.

We see that India has ratified the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020) and thus has proved to the world that even though Indi is a developing country but still it has taken responsibility to make sure that the GHG emissions are reduced in our atmosphere and that all the nations should be made to be legally bound by such protocols be it be developed or developing countries. Also India aims to attract some investments because of the Clean Development Mechanism . The next is the Paris Agreement is to start on the year 2020. The aim of this agreement is to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius “. Also this agreement aims to make sure that the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change grows each day as our environment is degrading at a really quick pace. So, in order to reach this objective, we need appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework which will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework . Also, it requires that all the Parties should put forward their best efforts through “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) in order to strengthen these efforts for the coming years.

This includes that all the member countries report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts so that every country can keep a track of what the other country is doing towards this goal . On the 2nd day of October 2016 India became the 62nd country to ratify the Paris Agreement. India being the 4th largest emitter of CO2 has finally become a part of this agreement so that it too can help in reducing the emissions of CO2 for the greater good and help in saving the environment .

II. Chapter 2- Role of India in UNFCCC India signed this Convention in 1992 and then finally ratified it in 1993. The main thing to remember is that under the UNFCCC, developing countries such as India do not have binding GHG mitigation commitments in recognition of their small contribution to the greenhouse problem as well as low financial and technical capacities . The MOEFCC (Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change) is the main organisation responsible for climate change in India. Thus, for the purpose of achieving the goals of UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol there are some Working Groups that have been constituted by the MOEFCC. As of now India’s initial National Communication also known as NATCOM for the UNFCCC is in progress.

According to the Article 4 and 12 of the UNFCCC every country which ratified this convention has to report to the UNFCCC on a periodic basis the amount of GGH emissions and their initiatives that they have come up with. Thus, the NATCOM process includes the comprehensive scientific and technical exercises for estimating GHG emissions from different sectors, reduce uncertainties in current estimations, develop sector- and technology-specific emission coefficients pertinent to India, and assess the adverse impacts of climate change and strategies for adapting to these impacts. NATCOM will also provide the general description of steps taken or envisaged to implement the convention. NATCOM will lead to developing a reliable database and capacity that will help to fulfill commitments under the Convention. The process is also expected to initiate efforts to identify areas of Targeted Research on climate change according to sustainable development plans of the country . As given on the website of MOEFCC there are several initiatives that have been adopted by India so as to achieve the goals and objectives of UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol. These initiatives have been copied from the website as it is.

These are as follows-
a) ‘Preparation of the country’s initial National Communication to the UNFCCC by the Government of India. All Parties are required to communicate a national inventory of GHGs, and a general description of steps taken for the implementation of the Convention. The GHG inventory for the country is being prepared for the base year 1994, and will cover five sectors: energy, industrial processes, agriculture, forestry, and waste. This exercise involved detailed work on estimation of sectoral GHG emissions and identification of country-specific emission factors. Vulnerability and adaptation assessment is also part of the National Communication project.

b) Support of the Asian Least-cost Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategy (ALGAS) study, by the Government of India. The study developed a national inventory of GHG sources and sinks, and identified potential mitigation options. Country-specific emission factors have been developed for methane emissions from paddy cultivation, carbon dioxide emissions from Indian coal, etc. c) An extensive methane measurement campaign coordinated by the National Physical Laboratory in 1991. Measurements were undertaken in major paddy growing regions of the country under different rice environs for the whole cropping period. Emissions from paddy cultivation in India were estimated to be about 4 Tg/year (a tenth of United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates obtained by extrapolating European and American data to India).

d) Several measures being undertaken in the country, which contribute to GHG mitigation.

e) Establishment of the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council under the Department of Science and Technology, which facilitates the transfer of environmentally sound technology.

f) Extensive efforts in conservation of forests and biodiversity. The Participatory Forest Management Strategy of the Government of India secures rehabilitation of degraded areas, conservation of biodiversity, along with sharing of benefits with local people. In situ conservation is undertaken through a system of protected areas, including 75 national parks and 421 wildlife sanctuaries, covering 146,000 square km.

g) Coastal zone management plans by all coastal states and Union Territories as per the Coastal Zone Regulation Notification of 1991by all coastal states and Union Territories.

The Government of India has set up Standing Committees for monitoring development in such fragile ecosystems as islands.

h) Generation of much-needed information about the vulnerability to climate change under the ongoing Indo-UK Climate Change Impacts Programme supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. Several research organizations and academic institutions in the country are also engaged in research on climate change impacts. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi are engaged in developing climate change scenarios for India.

i) Involvement of a number of governmental and independent agencies in climate change research in India. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) observes climatic parameters at surface and upper air observatories throughout the country. IMD’s network includes 559 surface observatories, more than 8000 rainfall monitoring stations, 100 satellite-based data collection platforms in remote areas, 203 voluntary observing ships, 10 cyclone detection radars, and 17 storm detection radars. Since 1983, IMD has maintained a meteorological observatory at the Indian Antarctic station. This data is scrutinized and archived at the National Data Centre, Pune, and used to study, predict, and determine the effects of climate change.

j) Replacement of the existing cyclone detection radars with state-of-art Doppler Weather Radars in a phased manner. The cities of Calcutta and Chennai have been the first ones to witness their use. An indigenous Doppler weather radar is being developed under a collaborative programme of the IMD with the Indian Space Research Organisation (IMD, 2001). 

k) Using satellite data received from INSAT to provide cloud imageries in the visible and infrared channels, which in turn, are used to derive cloud motion vectors, sea surface temperatures, and outgoing longwave radiation.

L) Key role played by Indian scientists in national and international climate research efforts such as the IIOE (International Indian Ocean Expedition), MONEX (Monsoon Experiment), INDOEX (Indian Ocean Experiment), World Climate Research Programme, Global Observing System, and International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’ India on 22nd January 2016 submitted its first Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the UNFCCC as every member country has an obligation towards this convention to report i.e. to provide information in the form of their NATCOM.

This BUR has been prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change under its NATCOM project funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) through UNDP. According to UNFCCC developed countries like USA and UK are supposed to submit a report known as the Biennial Report (BR), which is to be submitted every alternate year and is subjected to International Analysis and Review (IAR). But the Paris Agreement says that the developing country parties need to submit their first biennial update reports (BUR) as soon as possible. And now India on 22/01/2016 has submitted its first BUR . Thus, there are many laws that India has come up with to tackle the problem of climate change even though it is not legally bound to do so as it is only a developing country and not a developed country like USA who should actually be concerned about the degrading of environment at such a rapid pace, but still POTUS Donald Trump does not want to acknowledge this fact and he thinks that all of this is a tactic of the other countries to make USA pay money and fine.

III. Chapter 3- UNFCCC and other countries a) On 01 July 2017 USA withdrew itself from the Paris Agreement, as it did not believe in Climate change. b) Egypt on the other hand has started to manufacture local made bulbs so that they are energy efficient and save electricity. Also they have started to invest in the wind energy, local implementation of biogas to save the fossil fuels, utilisation of solar energy in tourist resorts and villages, use of CNG in public transportation. c) China has always tried to resist the call to reduce the GHG emissions as they say that less GHG emissions means less development which means less power which for them means less power to beat USA which is their ultimate goal, thus they are not willing to reduce their developmental activities which is harmful for the environment. d) UK adopted this UNFCCC in a very healthy manner and thus it has been able to reduce the emissions of GHG. This is due to restructuring the energy supply industry, increase in landfill methane capture and oxidation, passing of the Climate Change Act, 2008, starting of Environment Transformation fund in order to bring about new energy efficient technologies, starting of the Carbon Reduction Commitment. 

IV. Chapter 4- Criticism towards this Convention One of the main critics of UNFCCC is Mr. Aubrey Meyer, the propounded of the ‘Contraction and Convergence’ (C&C) principle. The basic tenets of the Contraction and Convergence principle are “The first step in C&C, ‘Contraction’, is based on agreeing a safe target concentration level and the determination of global annual emissions levels into which should take the atmosphere to that target… Having defined a global budget, the second step, ‘convergence’ defines allocations to each country. C&C assumes that each country is assigned annual allowances which vary, per capita, linearly, starting from actual levels in 2000 and converging to a common level of per capita emissions in a target year… The C&C package is expected to be completed with an emissions-trading mechanism and with a governance framework including penalties for non-compliance.” What Mr. Aubrey Meyer says is that UNFCCC even if it has a very good goal and objective, but still it mainly focuses on individual country’s objectives. And he also lames on the politics of the international blame. In his interview with Climatico Analysis he says that “The main problem of the present approach of the UNFCC is that parties [countries] are still negotiating what they perceive are their own interests or their own group interests. We all know that we must come together into a unified reckoning, but there seems to be an inability to come to order within the limits that now constrain us all.” Thus, if we read whole of his interview what we find out is that he wants all the countries to realise that climatic change is not something which only the under developed countries will face rather the effects of environmental degradation will be faced by each and every living creature on this planet. Thus, in order to solve this problem everyone and every nation has to come together. Also he says that penalty should be imposed on those countries that do not follow the UNFCCC so that is there is an imposition of penalty then atleast due to that fear they will reduce all those activities that is harming the environment.

V. Chapter 5- Conclusion Thus, what the author has observed is that even if UNFCCC has been made for such a noble cause and the fact that it has been made to tackle the climate change which is such a huge problem today still this convention has not been given legal binding. Hence the countries are not taking this seriously. The fact that the countries have been divide on the basis of their development and financial strength was not correct. Every country should be made responsible the same way as every human being is responsible for environmental degradation in some way or the other. What the author feels is that India even though it is still a developing country but still it is the 4th largest emitter of CO2.

UNFCCC should have kept this mind and thus should have made countries like India and china a part of the Annex 1 countries. What the UNFCCC should have done is differentiate the countries on the basis of their GHG emissions so that then they become legal bound such rules and policies of the Convention. Also, the author feels that penalties should have been the consequence of not following the policies of the conventions. Imposition of the policies would have ensured a larger contribution of the countries towards reducing climate change. Thus, rather than promoting individual country’s rule making policy the UNFCCC should have made global rules.

By Legal Service India.

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