A Review of Discussions on an International Framework to Address Climate Change, and Mitigation Actions by Developing Countries
Climate change affects everyone and everything on earth – not only human beings, but also other species and the entire ecosystem. The adverse impact of climate change will bring the most harm to those who are the most vulnerable. This does not necessarily mean that the most vulnerable are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Rather, in many cases it is the other way around. Industrialized countries emitted most of the GHGs in the past, and they are now wealthy enough to be able to cope, to a certain extent, with the adverse impact of climate change. This also explains why, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992, the industrialized nations agreed that they would start to reduce GHG emissions before other countries did so, and made a commitment to provide financial as well as technological assistance to less developed countries. While industrialized countries struggle to reduce their own GHG emissions, members of the group of developing countries experiencing economic growth, namely the G77 plus China group, have followed a more diverse trajectory within the last decade. Countries such as Mexico and Korea joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1994 and 1996, respectively, which sent the message that they had reached a relatively wealthy status. Brazil, South Africa, India, and China have formed the BASIC group to coordinate their positions at international negotiating meetings on climate change policies. They share similar national circumstances, as their emissions per capita have been climbing due to their rapidly growing economies and rising consumption of energy. Although their per capita emissions remain relatively low compared to those of industrialized countries, the absolute amount of GHG emissions in these countries now has a substantial impact. China’s GHG emissions are said to have surpassed
those of the United States at some point in 2007. Today it is the largest emitter, and accounts for nearly 22 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Although industrialized countries still bear the most responsibility, due to their cumulative historical emissions, and should take the lead in emissions reduction, it has become difficult to deny the increasing importance of emission mitigation actions taken by developing countries. This chapter explains the history of multilateral cooperative action to tackle climate change, focusing on issues related to mitigation activities in developing countries. The UNFCCC has taken on the central role in the multilateral process, but climate change has also been addressed by other international organizations and multilateral forums. The latter part of this chapter reviews some of the regional or bilateral channels that provide climate mitigation actions. The concluding section summarizes ways to move forward.