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close this bookThe Global Greenhouse Regime. Who Pays? (UNU, 1993, 382 p.)
close this folderPart I Measuring responsibility
close this folder1 Introduction
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View the documentThe greenhouse effect
View the documentWhat was decided at Rio?
View the documentProtocol negotiating difficulties
View the documentKey issues for climate change negotiations
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The greenhouse effect
What was decided at Rio?
Protocol negotiating difficulties
Key issues for climate change negotiations

Peter Hayes and Kirk R Smith

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, which was attended by more heads of state than any other meeting in human history, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (included as the Appendix to this volume) was opened for signature. By mid-October 1992,158 nations had signed it. To become law, it must be ratified by national legislatures of at least fifty countries, a process that may take two years.

Unfortunately, the Convention did not contain any specific provisions for funding its implementation. This lack is a major obstacle to its realization. The questions of how to decide who should pay and how much it might cost are the central topics of this book.

The participation of developing countries in a Climate Change Convention will determine whether the world responds prudently to the greenhouse effect. Even if the wealthy states radically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the poorer states will replace and eventually surpass them as major contributors to the greenhouse effect. Action by members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and other industrialized countries can significantly slow the rate and reduce the magnitude of global warming. But unless the developing countries also act, the threat remains to everyone. Based on current trends, big poor countries like China, Indonesia, India, and Brazil will become major carbon dioxide contributors. They are already big methane gas emitters even though their per capita output is small.

As is argued below, the Climate Change Convention itself is still mostly symbolic. Unresolved issues include the practical implementation of the Convention in protocols to the Convention on technology and resource transfer; obtaining commitments from parties to limit carbon emissions; and the design and implementation of abatement strategies. All this and much more remains to be settled in protocols to be negotiated now that the Convention itself has been signed.

In this book, we do not tackle all these important issues. Instead, we postulate that the major determinant of developing country participation will be the terms offered by the developed world. The need for the rich and poor nations to work together to respond to the greenhouse effect could create a new political-economic interdependence between them. Alternatively, as Norwegian analyst Anne Kristin Sydnes warns, it could portend 'another twenty years of fruitless North-South bargaining. The authors of this book examine the grounds for, the scale of, and possible conditions on possible resource transfer agreements from rich to poor states that will be central to any successful greenhouse management regime.

In this chapter, we undertake four tasks. First, we review the basic scientific understanding of the greenhouse gas effect that gave rise to the Climate Change Convention. Second, we describe the content of the Convention and note its limitations. Third, we review the novel negotiating difficulties that will arise in the course of developing effective protocols under the Convention. Fourth, we summarize the key issues for the ongoing negotiations under the rubric of the Convention as presented in this book. In the latter section, we also provide a synopsis of each chapter of the book.