With COP21 taking place next month, climate change has grabbed the attention of many. Sadly this hype only lasts for a few months and upon the conclusion of the conference, governments and individuals tend to forget the gravity of the situation they have put themselves in.
Climate change was first put on the global agenda at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where one of the conventions adopted at the conference was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its main objective was to draw up an action plan to stabilize the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in order to minimize the anthropogenic effect on the climate system.
The UNFCCC came into force in 1994 and at present has a membership of 195 parties. Every year global leaders come together at the Conference of Parties (COP) in order to review the Convention’s implementation and the progress of its action plan. The 1st COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and noteworthy meetings have taken place since, including COP3 (1997) where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 (2005) where the Montreal Action Plan was produced and COP17 (2011) where the Green Climate Fund was established.
Back in 1997 Kyoto Protocol attempted to put a price on carbon and tried to establish a system of tradeable quotas but it wasn’t a success as USA, one the world’s largest emitters, failed to ratify it. Then at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, a pledge-and-review process was introduced, in which nations independently decided by how much they would reduce their carbon emissions. This resulted in USA and other emerging economies making commitments to reduce their emissions for the first time. However the absence of any binding commitment meant that nations could always go back on their word.
This year will witness COP21, or the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, which is set to take place from November 30 to December 11, in Paris. Here they aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate that will limit the increase in the global temperature to no more than 2⁰C.
Christian De Perthuis, Professor of Economics at Paris-Dauphine University and Head of the Climate Economics Chair and Pierre-André Jouvet, Professor of Economics at the University Paris-Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense, and the scientific director of the Climate Economics Chair at Paris-Dauphine University have proposed a carbon “Price-and-Rebate” mechanism in which a price is set on emissions above a particular threshold and states how the revenues raised should be utilized.
The price-and-rebate mechanism is inspired by the bonus-malus (Latin for good-bad) scheme in France in which buyers of new cars are either given a bonus or taxed depending on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions. In the price-and-rebate mechanism a country exceeding the worldwide average for per capita emissions would pay a specified amount for every ton of CO2 (or its equivalent) above a set threshold and a country emitting lower than the specified threshold would be compensated for polluting less. The introduction of a price-and-rebate system would thus redistribute funds among countries. However, if the developed countries don’t agree to pay even a modest price for carbon, the talks in Paris will hit a wall.
Tackling climate change should be the number one priority of all nations. It has been identified as a crucial component in achieving sustainable development. This is reflected by Goal #13 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is to “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.
Climate change can no longer be ignored. It is a global issue that is affecting each and every individual on this planet. The clock is ticking and we’re running out of time. If we don’t act now, our future would be nothing but a myth.