One of the serious challenges to our survival has been the problem of global warming, which is likely to go on increasing unless effective measures to limit it are in place. The planet is warming due to carbon emissions consequent upon the activities of economic growth. Balancing environmental protection with need for economic development is not an easy job.
In a feature carried by Foreign Affairs entitled “The Climate Change We Can Beat” David G. Victor, Charles F. Kennel and Veerabhadran Ramanathan have argued that the known effects of continued warming of earth is deeply troubling. They give examples like rising sea levels, a thinning Arctic icecap, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, loss of natural habitats and many others.
Among such harmful effects, the extreme weather events have been visible even in Nepal substantiated by unprecedented rainfall in the western part resulting in heavy loss of lives and materials. Mahakali zone and, in particular, Darchula district has been the hardest hit region in the country, which may be due to global warming.
Climatologists Jerry Patchell and Roger Hayter in their Foreign Affairs essay “How Big Business Can save the Climate” have advised the policy makers in the field of climate affairs that nations can emulate the negotiation tactics seen in concluding the 1987 Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
That protocol has been regarded as a landmark agreement that has set ambitious goal of phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other dangerous chemicals. That treaty has been highly acclaimed by the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said, “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date.”
The above protocol has been widely adhered to seen in the curbing of the production and consumption of the CFCs by developed countries by 1996. Furthermore, by 2006 the 191 countries that had verified the protocol had eliminated 95% of global ozone-depleting emissions. This example has testified the success of the treaty, which is rare compared to many other internationally-concluded agreements.
Jerry Patchell and Roger Hayter bring about a fine comparison between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Montreal Protocol as both are related to dealing with climate change resulting from warming of the globe.
UNFCCC was concluded in 1992 during the high profile summit of world leaders who had gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil following the publication of a comprehensive report on environment and development. Popularly known as Brundtland report, the publication for the first time drew the attention of the international community to the urgency of protecting environment for humanity’s welfare.
The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development was indeed the first such high level meeting attended by a large number of Heads of State or Government. Then prime minister of Nepal Girija Prasad Koirala led a big delegation to the conference, which attests to Nepal’s high priorities to the issue of environmental protection. Our participation in various meetings devoted to climate change since then has been motivated by our desire to protect environment and more so by our emphasis on creating enabling environment for developing countries to mitigate the worst effects of global climate change.
UNFCCC is a negotiating process that aims at getting countries to commit to reducing their emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the primary cause of global warming. One of the vital reasons why the UNFCCC has floundered is the difference between the developed countries and the developing countries in their approach to dealing with the problem of climate change.
Moreover, the lack of progress concerning the above mentioned international agreement is because of difficulties in credibly measuring, reporting, and verifying emissions reductions, and the power of the vested interests in the energy sector.
According to climatologists why the Montreal Protocol has met with success compared to UNFCCC is that the former agreement has provided that each signatory to the protocol is required to report its emissions (consumption of ozone-depleting substances). If they do not meet their obligations of reduction of such substances, they are faced with trade sanctions in the form of penalties.
Besides, the Montreal Protocol requires its states parties to find out alternatives to the use of harmful chemicals by their industries within a set deadline. This has motivated them for innovation and introduction of new technologies to offset the production and consumption of chlorofluorocarbons.
The use of such carbons leads to the gradual depletion of ozone layer and is very damaging to the environment because ozone layer protects the living creatures from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Should ozone layer get thinner, it is likely that the living creatures will be exposed to the dangerous rays of the sun and hence life on planet will be threatened. Stopping the depletion of ozone layer, which is caused by excessive use of CFCs frequently used in manufacturing products like refrigerators, among others, is essential to save the environment.
UNFCCC is an outcome of the early 1990s when the global community realized that efforts to slow down the heating of the planet must not be delayed further. The good intentions of the first climate-related international treaty notwithstanding, the expected results in reducing the global temperature are not seen within reach.
If the Montreal Protocol is to be taken as a role model it appears that technology transfer scheme built in UNFCCC requires to be changed so that more countries unwilling to cut down their carbon emissions for fear of losing economic growth may be induced to accept binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments.
The problem of divided camps among countries is a serious challenge to resolving the climate change issue. The problem will not be solved unless emerging economies including China and India, the world’s first and the third largest emitters are convinced that the developed countries held responsible for harmful emissions are prepared to cut down their contribution to greenhouse gas more drastically.
For a poor developing country like Nepal, whose role to produce harmful carbon emissions is too limited to recognize, the transfer of appropriate technology, and funding of projects that help cut down the level of carbon emissions would be significant.