Climate change is an international problem
Scientists have long understood that human activity has an impact on the environment. It has taken longer to convince international government agencies of this. The Earth Summit, held in Rio in 1992, put the idea of sustainable development on the world agenda, and many global and national agreements on the environment and climate change have been established since then.
The Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol was established in 2002 as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to consider what can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It requires that industrialized nations, who have signed up to the protocol, reduce worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases to below their 1990 levels by 2012. The protocol has now been ratified by 181 countries around the world. If any of the participating countries fail to achieve their targets they willbe subject to heavy fines.
The Kyoto Treaty and the various schemes that operate within it (e.g. EU ETS / CDM / JI) is essentially a cap and trade system encouraging CO2 reductions at lowest cost. Countries within the Kyoto scheme can either reduce their carbon schemes, or if it is not economically viable or possible to do so, they can finance reductions elsewhere in the world by purchasing carbon credits.
Countries within Kyoto have a legal obligation to reduce CO2 emissions. The voluntary market offers similar possibilities to the Kyoto cap and trade mechanism to individuals, businesses and organisations of any kind. By purchasing Verified Emission Reductions, entities are effectively investing in projects that produce real and measurable CO2 reductions, enabling them to continue to do so. A number of voluntary t schemes have also been developed, in which projects making a real and measurable reduction in CO2 but that are not covered by the Kyoto Protocol can trade carbon credits. These include the, the Gold Standard and the Voluntary Carbon Standard. The latter two have been identified as being the most credible of the voluntary standards.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol)
The GHG Protocol is the most widely used international accounting tool for understanding, quantifying, and managing greenhouse gas emissions. Governments, businesses and environmental organisations globally are using it to create a new generation of credible and effective programs for tackling climate change. It provides the accounting framework for nearly every GHG program in the world, and is the basis for the carbon footprint methodology prepared by EmissionZero.
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The IPCC is a scientific body tasked to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity. The panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. The main activity of the IPCC is publishing special reports on topics relevant climate change. Contributors have included more than 2500 scientific expert reviewers from 130 countries.
Clearly, climate change and the environment is firmly on the global political agenda these days. However, we all contribute to climate change so we must all recognise the part we have to play.