The Climate Change as a Global Environmental Problem

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) refers to climate change as an alteration in the mean and/or the variability of the climate that is identifiable (e.g., using statistical tests), and persistent for an extended time period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or to a result in human activity. This concept differs from that of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change refers to an alteration of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, that alters the composition of the global atmosphere, and it is observed over comparable time periods, in addition to natural climate variability (IPCC 2007a).

The first IPCC report submitted in 1990 confirmed the legacy of the climate change phenomenon with human activities, and essentially identified two main causes: the use of fossil fuels related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the reduction of principal reservoirs of carbon in the planet, especially forests. The report highlighted the need to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle climate change and its consequences, drawing up the following key principles on which to base a possible international convention:

• The need to sensitize all countries on the global nature of phenomenon

• The use of an equity criterion in determining response actions

• The existence of responsibilities common to all countries, but differentiated by the degree of economic development of each country

• The precautionary principle, which states that the uncertainty of phenomena from the scientific point of view is not an excuse for not addressing the problem

In the same year, the General Assembly of the United Nations created the UNFCCC, adopted on May 9, 1992. The Convention entered into force on March 21, 1994. Currently, 194 parties (193 states and 1 regional economic integration organization) have signed the convention. The convention is complemented by the Kyoto Protocol which was adopted on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on February 16, 2005. Under this treaty, 37 industrialized countries and the European community have committed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of 5% of the 1990 levels over the 5-year period 2008-2012 (first commitment period). Up to date, 192 parties have ratified the treaty. The difference between the convention and the protocol is that the convention encourages industrialized countries to stabilize GHG emissions, while the protocol has the specific target to reduce GHG emissions.

The ultimate objective of UNFCCC is to stabilize concentrations of GHG in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a sufficient time frame to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensure that food production is not threatened, and enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.1

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty on the environmental global warming, signed on December 11, 1997 by more than 160 countries at the UNFCCC conference. The treaty entered into force on February 16, 2005, following ratification by Russia. For the enforcement of the protocol, it was necessary that it be ratified by at least 55 signatory countries and that ratification generated at least 55% of all global emissions. Italy ratified the treaty with the Law 120 of June 1, 2002. The treaty provides the obligation of developed countries during 2008-2012 to reduce polluting emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluor-ocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride) to no less than 5% of the emissions recorded in 1990, considered as the base year.

The Kyoto Protocol dictates that countries must meet their targets primarily through national measures. However, the protocol also offers to signatory countries three market-based mechanisms to meet their targets: Emission Trading, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI). Moreover, the protocol requires that countries' emissions need to be monitored and precise records on the trading process must be kept. A registry system tracks and records transactions among parties under different mechanisms. The UN Climate Change Secretariat keeps an international transaction logbook to verify that transactions are consistent with the rules of the protocol. Furthermore, reporting is periodically done by parties by submitting annual GHG emission inventories and national reports.

Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol allows each signed party to include in its annual GHG inventory information about anthropogenic GHG emissions that may have been removed by means of sinks represented by land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities. In particular, paragraph 3 of Article 3 is related to the activities of afforestation, reforestation, and deforestation, which had begun since 1990 and resulted from a direct human-induced conversion. In the context of the paragraph 3.4, each party may choose to account for anthropogenic GHG emissions removed by means of sinks resulting from any or all of the following human-induced activities: forest management, cropland management, grazing land management, and revegetation. Activities enclosed in Article 3.4 encompass lands that have not undergone conversion since 1990, but are otherwise subjected to a specific land use (UNFCCC 2005a, b).

The convention and the Kyoto Protocol are also designed to assist countries in adapting to the adverse effects of climate change. The convention facilitates the development and deployment of techniques that can help increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. For this purpose, the Adaptation Fund was established to finance adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries which have

1 http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf

become full parties of the protocol. The fund is financed mainly with a share of funds related to CDM project activities. Currently, negotiations for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol are under way, and are oriented to more stringent emission reductions, as indicated by IPCC in their recent reports.

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