Limited versus Unlimited Flexibility
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Johan Albrecht
Chapter 1: Introduction
Johan Albrecht The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) introduced a number of important innovations into climate policy. When the Convention was opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, only a legally non-binding voluntary pledge to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to their 1990 level by the year 2000 was formulated. As the goal of the Convention has been deﬁned as ‘stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic inference with the climate system’ (UNFCCC, 2000), voluntary reductions were in fact seen as a ﬁrst step to realize this ambition. It became apparent in the middle of the 1990s, however, that this goal would not be realized by most industrial nations. Global emissions continued to increase. At the First Conference of the Parties (CoP1) in 1995, the international community therefore decided to enter into negotiations on a protocol to establish legally binding limitations on GHG emissions. In December 1997, almost 40 industrialized nations and economies in transition – the Annex II group – agreed on a binding treaty to limit their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels. Voluntary efforts at national levels have been deﬁnitively replaced by the Kyoto Protocol, the ﬁrst binding reduction agreement. This important shift has been made possible by the introduction of international emission reduction mechanisms that are expected to offer lowcost reduction...
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