The upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen is fast becoming a central point for debate and controversy. The Conference is supposed to reexamine the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to consider what steps need to be taken to reduce the rate and pace of climate change and to suggest solutions to the problems that will and have already arisen from the temperature changes that are now inevitable. The Kyoto Protocol, which contains the cap-and-trade system (a system which allows countries who underused their carbon allocation to sell the excess to another state which has surpassed its limit) and other legally binding limits on carbon emission and reduction has had limited success in stemming the rate of climate change. The use of ‘soft law’ solutions to international environmental issues has failed in its attempts to gently push states into compliance and it is now admitted even by the United States and China, two countries’ whose carbon emissions are of such a magnitude that without their co-operation it matters little what other states attempt to do, that action must be taken. Mairead blogged about the human rights link on HRinI here.
In Ireland progress towards legally binding limits have been slow with little impetus put into pulling back from the levels of current emissions. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security announced today, ‘Unless there is a clear regulatory framework supportive of Ireland meeting its EU and international commitments, Government, investors, emitters and consumers will not have a context within which to take behaviour changing initiatives.’ It also set out Heads of a Climate Change Bill which is based upon what has already been introduced in other states. The proposed bill would include: the setting of national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, setting of energy and electricity efficiency targets by 2020 and the setting up of an independent Climate Change Commission. While this sounds marvelous one can’t help but think that this is a preemptive attempt to get around any international commitments that the EU signs up for at Copenhagen.