Global Warming Regimes The idea of a “regime” is not a universal one. Few people know the meaning of the word within the context of politics. I asked many people what the word “regime” meant to them before I began writing this response. Almost universally, the answer followed the lines of “a dictatorship” or, slightly closer, “the feudal system”. There are many definitions of what exactly a regime is. Within international political science a regime is “a system of principles, norms, rules, operating procedures and institutions that actors create or accept to regulate and coordinate action in a particular issue area of international relations” (GEP 17). A good example of a regime under this definition would be the international Geneva Convention. The regulations set up within this convention hold all signers to a standard of treatment for prisoners of war. Violations are condemned by others within the convention and they can agree to impose sanctions or get the UN involved. Regimes create an etiquette of sort for international actors surrounding a certain issue; that can encompass states, corporations, industries, NGO‟s, academics, individuals and others. There is a socially acceptable set of actions after a regime has been formed. Particularly within the climate change arena there have been multiple attempts to create an effective international regime. The Kyoto Protocol is the most publicized endeavor but not the only one and decidedly not a universally successful one. Kyoto is an example of one of two kinds of regimes proposed for climate change; one sets goals based on prior emissions and the other is equity based. Kyoto is a representation of the former. The process leading up to the actions at Kyoto began in the 1980‟s. During this decade science began publishing on the issue of global warming; institutions such as NASA, The World Meteorological Organization, and others recognized in publication an unexpected rapid climate change. In 1988 the International Panel on Climate Change was established; their first report came out in 1990 and identified global warming as a scientific reality (GEP 119) with greenhouse gases as a cause. Immediately, the United States set itself up as a veto state, opposing primarily Europe, positioning itself against any agreement that involved explicit obligations for the countries who signed. Japan ultimately decided which direction the talks would go in when it went against the US and began to limit its emissions voluntarily. It set the mark of having pre 1990 levels by 2000. That made the majority of industrialized nations (all but the US and the Soviet Union) in favor of a goal based protocol convention. Many different conventions took place and the UN started the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on a Framework Convention on Climate Change. Europe led the charge for stabilization at 1990 levels but failed in getting the US to agree to any concrete promises or goals. After a few more non-conclusive Conferences of Parties, including the Earth Summit in Rio, the Kyoto Protocol was drafted in 1997. This document established a number of regulations and principles for the ratifying countries. There was a mandatory reduction of greenhouse emissions for industrialized countries (5.2% below 1990 levels)1. There were loopholes created to make the transition easier: the Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation, 1 There were 12 gases included in the protocol. Carbon Dioxide is the most publicized due to its relation to fossil fuel use. Though it is one of the least common in the atmosphere, it lasts longer which means it slowly increases in proportion as the others fade or change form. and emission trading. The CDM and JI have developed countries do projects to reduce the emissions in developing and transition countries; that work counts toward the emission reduction credits of the developing country. Emission trading just means that if Germany decreases its emissions beyond its goal and has extra credits it could trade them with France who has not reached its target cuts. They could be traded for money or favors. Many opposed this because it allowed some countries not to pull their full weight. After much negotiation2 and George W. Bush announcing the US would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Russia joined the Protocol in 2004 making it have enough support to go into effect. The United States‟ withdrawal was a detriment to the effort but could not stop many countries making strides independently of the Protocol. The second type of regime proposed is based on rights and equity. It raises questions like, why should the US which has a population of only 300 million be allowed to use almost half of the atmospheric “space” with its emissions? How is it fair to ask the South to give up fossil fuels and the only known path to development because the North used up the world‟s resources? It would allow emissions to be based on a more per capita basis and look at the historic impact of regions on the current problem. This is especially important to the developing world which is by far the leader in population, while the developed countries actually have declining populations. The developed world has more technology and money that should allow them to change their emissions patterns. This should not destroy the global North but allow them to develop and incorporate new methods of production and forms of energy for both themselves and the South, paying back the world for their damage their development path has left behind. “The „right‟ to dump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has significant economic value, and the economic advantages of this right cannot be ignored” (DH 72). This method does recognize the fact that the North has used up more than its share and should pay back the South for the consequences. We can all see from examples like hurricane Katrina in New Orleans that the poor are the ones who suffer during a natural disaster. They do not have the resources to get out of the danger zone. The South is who would suffer the most from the effects of global warming but has contributed to the problem the least throughout history. They cannot have an industrial revolution like Europe and the US did, fossil fuel and production heavy. The North needs to pay for the South to innovate another path toward development to prevent disaster; otherwise, the Southern nations will not agree to limit emissions thereby limiting their own potential. Word Count: 997 Most Useful Readings: GEP chapters 1-3, Dead Heat, 2 One of the main sources of contention was the involvement of the developing countries such as India and China who were already responsible for over ten percent of CO2 emissions.
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