Addressing climate change is one of the biggest global challenges of the 21st century. The average global temperature on the earth’s surface is continuously increasing due to higher greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. In 1992, the international community of states adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and agreed to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent further dangerous anthropogenic interferences with the climate system.
The Convention is guided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-backed panel of climate scientists, which has produced a series of Assessment Reports increasingly providing beyond doubt that global warming is progressing and that mankind is the main cause of this development. In its Fifth Assessment Report in 2014, the IPCC found that global surface temperatures had already risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius and emissions would need to be cut by between 40-70% by 2050 under 2010 levels to give a good chance of staying below 2C, the goal agreed by UN parties in 2010. In Nov. 2016 the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation said 2016 would be the hottest year on record, with temperatures inching to 1.2C above pre-industrial levels, while researchers at Global Carbon Budget predicted the 2C danger point would be likely passed by 2037.
The Convention made general commitments but the 1997 Kyoto Protocol set binding reduction targets on industrialised nations, with the first commitment period over 2008-2012. In late 2012, UNFCCC parties agreed a second commitment period for developed countries over 2013-2020. Participating developed countries account for less than 15% of all emissions as Russia, Japan and New Zealand refused to take on new targets. At Dec. 2015 UN talks in Paris, parties agreed on a new Agreement to bind all emitters to curb emissions, building on a series of voluntary pledges for the current decade known as the Cancun Agreements under which many nations have taken action.
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