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International Relations and the Environment

Global policies
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to keep global warming below 2 °C, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) must be halved by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels). Developed countries will need to reduce more – between 80 % and 95 % by 2050; advanced developing countries with large emissions (e.g. China, India and Brazil) will have to limit their emission growth.

Agreed in 1997, the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol is a first step towards achieving more substantial global emission reductions. It sets binding emission targets for developed countries that have ratified it, such as the EU Member States, and limits the emission increases of the remaining countries for the first commitment period from 2008 to 2012. The 15 pre-2004 EU Member States (the EU-15) have a joint emission reduction target of 8 % below 1990 levels. Through the internal EU “burden-sharing agreement”, some EU Member States are permitted increases in emissions, while others must decrease them. Most Member States that joined the EU after 1 May 2004 have targets of -6 % to -8 % from their base years (mostly 1990).

EU emissions represent about 10 % of total global emissions. The United States, which has a large share of total global GHG emissions, has not ratified the protocol. China and several other countries with large GHG emissions do not have binding emission targets under the protocol. Countries are expected to meet their target mainly through domestic policies and measures. They may meet part of their emission reduction targets by investing in emission-reducing projects in developing countries (the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)) or in developed ones (Joint Implementation (JI)). The CDM is also meant to support sustainable development, e.g. by financing renewable energy projects.

The Cancún Agreements, adopted at the UN Climate Conference in Mexico (December 2010), include a comprehensive finance, technology and capacity-building support package to help developing nations adapt to climate change and adopt sustainable paths to low-emission economies. The agreements also include a time schedule for reviewing the objective of keeping the average global temperature rise below 2 °C. The agreements confirm that developed countries will mobilise USD 100 billion in climate funding for developing countries annually by 2020, and establish a Green Climate Fund through which much of the funding will be channelled.