Failure of International Climate Treaties - Paper Example

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1840 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
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The term major emitters, refers to the country that produce high levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which has a negative impact on climate change. On the other hand, in relation to the International Climate Treaty, it refers to countries that are willing to meet in order to discuss, recommend and implement policies that are focused to having a positive effect on climate change (Gleditsch, 2012). The scientific community has for some time pointed out the potential for human activities to contribute to global climate change. It is important to point out that human and natural actions have the potential of changing the balance in relation to the energy that is absorbed by the earth and that which is emitted in the form of a long wave (Laine, 2014). Human activities are increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases which have either a warming effect on the climate, and in some regions, the aerosols that are emitted lead to a cooling effect of the atmosphere.

Throughout history international climate treaties whilst important to government agendas, have often been overridden by clashing external factors or agreements. This essay will explore the economic pressures, government failure to ratify policies and the unpredictable involvement of developed countries. In the following sections, it will show the reasons as to why international climate treaties in the past have proven to be unsuccessful. In this essay, in order to illustrate why it has proved difficult to negotiate an international climate treaty, there are various things that will need to be discussed such as how industry and economic development has a negative impact on emission reduction. It will also be important to show that the relaxed nature of the policy agreements has had a negative effect in terms of countries agreeing to use one climate treaty. In the past, over 500 agreements have been signed, and in some cases, these commitments contain policies that are in contrast to one another, and this has had a negative effect in terms of countries committing to a certain agreement. In this paper, it will also show that the absence of countries such as Australia and the USA in previous climate negotiations means that other countries feel that they are not obligated to enact the appropriate policies that they agree on because, these two countries are major emitters.

Several treaties have been put in place with regards to climate change. Negotiations by the United Nations to develop the Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC began in 1991 and in June 1992 at the Earth Summit the convention was opened for signature. The treaty was signed in order to ensure that there is the stabilization of the greenhouse gas concenter in relation with the existing climate systems (McCright & Dunlap, 2003). Such a level should be completed within a sufficient timeline in order to ensure that the existing eco-systems have enough time to adapt naturally to the climate changes. If such steps are taken, it ensures that food production is not threatened and it enables economic development to proceed sustainably. An all-inclusive international climate treaty has proved difficult to negotiate as a result of the following factors.

In most countries, one of the reason why they have failed to enact the policies that have been provided in the international climate treaties is due to the fact that the activities that will contribute to emission reduction, have a negative impact on economic development. Economic growth, financial development, and employment are independent variables that relate to energy consumption. Energy is considered as the lifeline of an economy hence the more energy produced, the greater the impact on the economy as has been evidenced in the developed countries record-breaking major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG). It has led to a dilemma in relation to advancement in development, which lead to an increased emission of GHGs, and commitment to climate conservancy, which means that there is the need to reduce GHG emissions, and this has led to complications in terms of a globally accepted treaty on climate.

Major industries in developed countries that largely emit high quantities of greenhouse gases, produce goods that are profitable to the country. Such include the cement manufacturing industry in Saudi Arabia. This is a highly polluting but also a highly profitable sector. This creates a problem of bias in the negotiation of an international climate treaty. Cement manufacturing is one of the most energy and carbon intensive sectors. This business is profitable because of the many constructions that are being conducted in different parts of the country (Oberthur & Ott, 2011). Saudi Arabia has 15 companies producing slightly over sixty tons of cement annually. Due to the nature of importance to the economy of the manufacturing industry, any all-inclusive treaty being devised will have to take into consideration such industries so that the specific country signs the treaty.

Other profitable sectors like the transportation industry focus more on profit maximization than the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This primarily comes from the burning fossil fuels emanating from cars, ship, planes, and trains that are used for transportation of people from one location to another. The transport industry in most economies is considered to be an important factor in relation to helping a country progress (Pendergast, 2006). The transport sector is profitable due to the demand necessitated by the need to transport goods and people. Almost 90% of fuel used in the transport industry is petroleum based in the form of diesel and gasoline, which leads to the production of greenhouse gases that are produced by different modes of transport into the atmosphere.

Electricity production generates the largest share of GHG emissions. Electricity is largely generated from burning fossil fuels mostly coal and natural gas. There is a high demand for electricity because of its importance in terms of conducting day to day activities (Pendergast, 2006). Major emitters will tend to focus on the profit index more hence a hurdle to negotiate an all-inclusive treaty. Commercial and residential sectors are another such example that focuses on profitability more than emissions. These sectors are highly profitable but also contribute to GHG emissions arising from fossil fuels burned for heat and handling of waste

A carbon credit is a generic term or financial instrument that permits the holder to emit one tone of carbon dioxide or the mass of another greenhouse gas with a carbon dioxide equivalent to one tone of carbon dioxide (Rogers & Marres, 2000). Carbon credits and carbon markets are used today as one of the measure to reduce or control the emission of GHG (Rogers & Marres, 2000). Carbon credits have proved difficult to negotiate international inclusive climate treaties of major emitters. Buying and selling emission credits for projects is designed for a few countries that are trying to transition from the high-pollutant activities, and achieve effective policies without necessarily affecting their development and economic activities. Carbon credits are an offsetting mechanism and hence are problematic. Purchase of emission credits allows countries to offset emissions and it has acted as a barrier in terms of achieving an international climate treaty that will be adopted by all countries (Savaresi, 2016). The vast majority of credits are unlikely to reduce GHG emissions. Carbon offset credits have fallen out of favor after the scandals in Europe and poor performance which has led to some countries to refuse to use these credits.

Kyoto protocol allowed offsetting reduction by the purchase of emissions credits in other countries. The Kyoto protocol treaty was adopted in Kyoto Japan on December 11 1997and entered into force on February 16, 2005 and it used the UNFCCC policies as a measure to reduce the GHG concentrations (Savaresi, 2016). The Kyoto protocol is legally binding and as a result led to Canadas withdrawal arguing that large emitters like the USA and China were not bound by the protocol hence, it was unrealistic. Administrations like the George Bush denounced Kyoto as an unfair and ineffective means of addressing climate change as a threat to the United States economic interests and embarked on a new path of improving U.S. carbon intensity.

The Kyoto protocol provides for emission trading. This is where nations offset rapid cuts in their emissions by buying emission credits from other countries. The problem that arose from this protocol is starting this trading system required creating emission permits worth 2 trillion dollars. It was not successful mainly due to its inability to implement adequate monitoring, enforcement of property rights, and also coming up with an adequate plan for allocating achievable plans (Savaresi, 2016). By allowing emissions purchase Kyoto allowed debilitating drawbacks from major emitters and as such proved difficult for the negotiation of an all-inclusive international climate treaty.

The 2008 global financial crisis affected the climate change in that it ushered a new era whereby the economic turmoil did not have a positive impact on climate change. Historically recessions meant a fall in GHG emissions since the major emitters were struggling financially, but in this case, it did not happen that way. The recession created a situation whereby all attention was focused on resolving country economies as opposed to their carbon emissions. The fight against climate change, therefore, took a back seat. At the height of the financial crisis, carbon dioxide emissions reached record levels (Seo, 2017). This was partly because of fast-growing economies in the world like China and India being unscathed by the effects of the recession. The pace of climate was expected to increase the involvement of the United States however due to their financial crisis the reverse happened. This made it difficult for the United States to convince countries like China to make changes hence proving difficult to negotiate an all-inclusive climate treaty. Another point worth noting is emission reduction initiatives are expensive and as such more environmentally friendly initiatives were pushed back in favor of getting economies on track.

Emission trading schemes backfired when costs of emission allowances dropped. High emission companies could potentially go to higher emissions with only minor incentives to reduce emissions. It was cheaper for carbon emission companies sell their cap room to gain income hence derailing negotiations of an all-inclusive climate treaty. This scheme led to fraud and corruption in the emission regulation system is cumbersome and as such loopholes arise since such systems require a lot of policies to enforce. The result of selling more carbon credits has resulted to increased pollution (Seo, 2017). Major emitters total emissions went up since they were increasingly purchasing more pollution space. Factories deliberately increased their emissions to claim and sell carbon credits when reduced again. By selling their cap room, lower emission companies got more income, but this plan or initiative resulted in more emissions. The Paris agreement states that progress on climate change may only be effective through economic growth. The effect of this on developing an international climate treaty is that economic growth impacts emissions. Efforts to eradicate poverty lead to industrialization which leads to more carbon emissions. Also, economic growth is reliant on improved technologies which may have an impact on GHG emissions.

In the past, there have been numerous policy agreements that have been met, and they have fa...

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