There have been scientific warnings that feedback mechanisms could cause runaway global warming. It will be necessary to attempt to meet targets in GHG emissions and caps provide a greater degree of certainty in reaching targets than a tax. Global warming requires global solutions, and setting an overall limit on global emissions is the preferred method that has been adopted by the global community. However, the caps still need to be linked objectively and effectively to temperature objectives. The process involves the setting of the total quantity of emissions at a level that will deliver a desired concentration of greenhouse gases by a certain date, and thus limit the rise in global temperatures. The introduction of taxes or the setting of targets or caps on greenhouse emissions then follows in individual countries party to a global agreement.
The global scheme for capping emissions that is in place is the Kyoto Protocol (United Nations, 1998), adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997, entering into force on 16 February 2005 and to date ratified by 183 countries. The major distinction between the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 2002) is that while the Convention encouraged industrialized countries to stabilize GHG emissions (developed countries that adopted this goal are listed in Annex I), the Protocol commits them to doing so.
In recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere, due to more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Kyoto Protocol, through Article 10 (United Nations, 1998), places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities'. The Protocol, in its Annex B, thus sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Community for reducing GHG emissions.
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