Climate Change Notes 1

  • It is the long term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time
  • Though it has been happening naturally for millions of years, in recent years it has accelerated due to anthropogenic causes and has been causing global warming.

  • UNFCCC defines climate change as – “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”

Global Warming

  • An increase in the average temperature of Earth’s near surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century
  • 4th assessment report of IPCC: global temperature increased 74+0.18 degree C during the 20th century.
  • Caused by greenhouse gases
    • Water vapour, Co2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone, CFCs (in order of abundance)
  • Since the industrial revolution, the burning of fossil fuels has increased the levels of Co2 in the atmosphere from 280 ppm to 390 ppm.

Climate Change Mitigation

  • Alternative Energy sources
    • Renewable energy
    • Nuclear Power
    • Reduce the carbon intensity of fossil fuels
  • Energy efficiency and conservation
    • Transport and urban planning
    • Building design
    • Reforestation and avoid deforestation
    • Eliminating waste methane
  • Geoengineering
    • Greenhouse gas remediation
      • Biomass
      • Carbon air capture
      • Carbon capture and storage
    • Societal control
      • Population
      • Sustainable life-style


Inter-governmental action

  • IPCC
  • UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), 1992
  • Agenda 21
    • An action plan of UN relating to sustainable development adopted at the Earth Summit, 1992
  • Kyoto Protocol


  • 1988 by World Meteorological Organisation and UNEP
  • tasked with reviewing and assessing the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change
  • Nobel Prize in 2007
  • The IPCC does not carry out its own original research, nor does it do the work of monitoring climate or related phenomena itself.
  • A main activity of the IPCC is publishing special reports on topics relevant to the implementation of the (UNFCCC)
  • Till now, it has released four assessment reports (1990, 1995, 2001, 2007)
  • Fifth assessment report is due in 2014


1992 at the Rio Summit.

194 members. Secretariat at Bonn.

Parties to UNFCCC are classified as:

  • Annex I countries – industrialized countries and economies in transition
  • Annex II countries – developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries
  • Developing countries.


Conference Place Outcome
1995 COP1 Berlin The Berlin Mandate
1996 COP2 Geneva
1997 COP3 Kyoto Kyoto Protocol
1998 COP4 Buenos Aires
1999 COP5 Bonn
2000 COP6 /2001 COP6 The Hague/Bonn CDM and Joint Implementation adopted at Bonn
2001 COP7 Marrakesh
2002 COP8 New Delhi Delhi Declaration: Calls for efforts by developed countries to transfer technology and minimize the impact of climate change on developing countries
2003 COP9 Milan
2004 COP10 Buenos Aires
2005 COP11/MOP1 Montreal
2006 COP12/MOP2 Nairobi
2007 COP13/MOP3 Bali Bali Action Plan
2008 COP14/MOP4 Poznan, Poland
2009 COP15/MOP5 Copenhagen
2010 COP16/MOP6 Cancun
2011 COP17/MOP7 Durban, South Africa



Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol has put in place three flexibility mechanisms to reduce emission of Green House Gases. Although the Protocol places maximum responsibility of reducing emissions on the developed countries by committing them to specific emission targets, the three mechanisms are based on the premise that reduction of emissions in any part of the globe will have the same desired effect on the atmosphere, and also that some developed countries might find it easier and more cost effective to support emissions reductions in other developed or developing countries rather than at home. These mechanisms thus provide flexibility to the Annexure I countries, helping them to meet their emission reduction obligations. Let us take a look at what these mechanisms are.

What are the three flexibility mechanisms put in place of the Kyoto Protocol for reducing GHG emission?

  • The three mechanisms are joint implementation. Emissions Trading and Clean Development

What is Joint Implementation?

  • Through the Joint Implementation, any Annex I country can invest in emission reduction projects (referred to as joint Implementation Project) in any other Annex I country as an alternative to reducing emissions domestically.
  • Two early examples are change from a wet to a dry process at a Ukraine cement works, reducing energy consumption by 53 percent by 2008-2012; and rehabilitation of a Bulgarian hydropower project, with a 267,000 ton reduction of C02 equivalent during 2008-2012.

What is Clean Development Mechanism?

  • The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows-‘l developed country with an emission reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement an emission reduction project in developing countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries. In exchange for the amount of reduction In emission thus achieved, the investing gets carbon credits which it can offset against its Kyoto targets. The developing country gains a Step towards sustainable development.
  • To get a CDM project registered and implemented, the investing country’ has to first take approval from the designated national authority in the host country, establish “Additionally”, define baselines and get the project validated by a third party agency, called a Designated Operational Entity (DOE). The Executive Body of CDM registers the project and issues credits, called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), or carbon credits, where each unit is equivalent to the reduction of one metric tonne of. C02 or its equivalent. There are more than 4200 CDM projects in the pipeline as on 14.3.2010. The expected CERs till the end of2012 is 2,900,000,000

What is “Additionality” in a CDM project ?

  • The feature of “additionality” is a crucial element of a CDM project it means that the industrialized country that is seeking to establish the CDM project in the developing country and earns carbon credits from it has to establish that the planned carbon reductions would not have occurred on its own, in the absence of the CDM project. They have to establish a baseline of the project. Which is the emission level that would have been there in the absence of the project. The difference between this baseline level and the (lower) emission level achieved as a result of the project is the carbon credit due to the investing country

What are some of the concerns regarding CDM ?

  • The risk of “false Credits” is a cause for concern with regard to CDM projects. If a project does not actually offer an additionally and the reduction in emission would have happened anyway Even without the project.


CoP15 (Copenhagen Summit)

  • Main aim was to establish a global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires
  • The conference did not achieve any binding agreement for long term action
  • A ‘political accord’ was negotiated by approximately 25 parties
    • Collective commitment by developed countries for new and additional resources , including forestry and investments through international institutions to a tune of $30 bn for the period 2010-12.
  • Copenhagen Accord
    • Not legally binding and does not commit countries to agree to a binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol
    • Annex 1 parties would commit to economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 to be submitted by 31 Jan 2010. Delivery of reductions and finance by developed countries will be measured , reported and verified (MRV) in accordance with COP guidelines
    • Non-annex 1 countries would implement Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions to slow their carbon emissions
    • Commits $30 bn for 2010-12
    • Copenhagen Green Climate Fund
    • The accord shall be assessed in 2015

Tarawa Climate Change Conference

  • In the lead up to COP16, the leaders of the world’s most climate-change vulnerable countries met in Kiribati in November 2010
  • Ambo Declaration was adopted
    • It calls for more and immediate action to be undertaken to address the causes and adverse impacts of climate change.

CoP-16/CMP-6, Cancun

COP-16 President: Patricia Espinosa, Mexico’s foreign secretary

COP-17 will be held in Durban


  • Forestry issues and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) plus
  • The developed countries are pushing for transparency from countries where they will fund climate change mitigation.
    • The assessment of carbon emission mitigation for developing countries is right now through domestic communication but is subject to international consultation and analysis. This push for transparency is a major contentious issue.
  • Fast-track finance: $ 30 bn had been committed at CoP-15. A large part of this funding is yet to come through.



Agreements Reached

  • The outcome of the summit was an agreement, not a binding treaty, which calls on rich countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as pledged in the Copenhagen Accord, and for developing countries to plan to reduce their emissions, to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • There should be no gap between the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in December 2012, and the second phase.
  • The agreement calls on the developed countries to “raise the level of ambition of the emission reductions to be achieved by them individually or jointly, with a view to reducing their aggregate level of emission of green house gases”
  • Allows flexibility in choosing the base year for setting emission reduction targets
  • Emissions trading and the project based mechanism under the KP shall continue to be available to Annex 1 parties as a means to meet their quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives.
  • The agreements recognize that in all climate change related action, human rights must be respected. They also recognise the need to engage with a broad range of stakeholders, including youth and persons with disability, and call for gender equality and effective participation of women and indigenous people in effective action on all aspects of climate change.
  • The BASIC group softened the three demands it had before the talks began
    • Necessity of a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol
    • Need to accelerate disbursement under the fast start finance in the form of new and additional resources through a multilaterally supervised mechanism
    • Continued dialogue on IPRs as part of the technology development and transfer issues.
  • REDD is a part of the package and proposed mitigation actions include conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks and sustainable management of forests.
    • REDD is a set of steps designed to use market/financial incentives in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. Its original objective is to reduce GHGs but it can deliver ‘co-benefits’ such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation
    • REDD+ calls for activities with serious implication directed towards the local communities, indigenous people and forests which relate to reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation. It goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks
  • A Cancun Adaptation Framework has been proposed to strengthen and address implementation of action, and various kinds of assessments, apart from R&D and host of other issues.
  • Green Climate Fund The fund will be designed by a transitional committee, with 15 members from the developed countries and 25 from the developing nations.
  • Pledge by the developed countries to provide $100 bn annually till 2020.



  • UNFCCC secretary-general Christian Figueres emphasised that the main achievement of the Cancun meet has been to restore some degree of faith in the multilateral process.
  • The agreements don’t mention any reduction targets.
  • Though the agreements recognize the need to reduce the GHG emissions and curb the increase in global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in the absence of any firm target, this could be an inadequate and vague provision
  • Bolivia has rejected the agreement, saying that it won’t support agreement without binding emission cuts.
  • In a sense, the summit was both a major step forward as well as a failure
  • It was a step forward because in recent years climate change negotiations had stumbled and this meeting helped overcome that
  • It was a failure because it failed to reach an agreement for binding restrictions that are required to avert global warming.
  • There was no agreement on how to extend the Kyoto Protocol, or how the $100 billion a year for the Green Climate Fund will be raised or whether developing countries should have binding emissions reductions.

Assessment articles

Under the Cancun Agreements, the targets set by industrialised countries for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are recognised as part of the multilateral process. They must now draw up low-carbon development plans and strategies and also report their inventories annually. In the case of developing countries, actions for emissions reduction will be recognised officially; a registry will record and match their mitigation actions to finance and technology support from rich countries; and they will report their progress every two years. These form a good preamble for target-setting for all member-countries under an agreed framework at Durban next year.


  • A large amount of energy used during the conference came from renewable sources
  • Around 10000 trees and bushes will be planted in Cancun

Role of India and its relevance

  • India can act as a mediator between the developing and developed countries
  • India’s approach to climate change negotiations has been governed by three factors – how to protect the country’s economic interest and environment agenda, to use climate change as a tool of global diplomacy and consolidate its position on world forums.
  • At Cancun, India was responsible for having made five insertions into the Agreement
    • In the section on shared vision, the figure of 50 pc has been dropped from identifying a global goal for substantially reducing emissions by 2050
    • The phrase access to sustainable development has been introduced in the context of working towards identifying a time-frame for global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions based on the best available scientific knowledge
    • International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) finds mention the agreements. It proposes to enhance the reporting for the non-Annex 1 parties or developing countries on mitigation  action and its effects and support received
  • At Cancun, India also proposed legally binding emission cuts.


Climate Change related facts

  • From 2001 to 2010, global temperatures have averaged 0.46 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average and the highest value ever recorded for a 10-year period.

What is REDD

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a set of steps designed to use market financial incentives in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. Its original objective is to reduce green house gases but it can deliver “co-benefits” such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.

REDD+ is being criticised by indigenous people and activists because it is designed to give more control over indigenous people’s forests to state forest departments, miners, companies etc resulting in violation of rights, loss of livelihoods etc.

REDD is presented as an “offset” scheme of the carbon markets and thus, will produce carbon credits. Forest degradation accounts for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, about the same as transportation sector. Mitigation cannot be achieved without the inclusion of forests in an international regime. Hence, it is expected to play a crucial role in a future successor agreement to Kyoto Protocol.

Cancun climate agreement at a glance

Cutting carbon emissions: Scores of rich countries made pledges over the last year to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 under the Copenhagen accord but they were not incorporated in the official UN process. Cancun now formally puts those pledges into UN documentation, although they may increase or decrease in future.

For the first time, developing countries also agreed to look at how they can cut emissions in the future — but did not make specific pledges.

Crucially however, none of the cuts are legally binding.


Climate aid: A new climate green fund was agreed at Cancun to transfer money from the developed to developing world to tackle the impacts of climate change. Poorer countries saw this as a success because they will outnumber rich countries on a supervisory panel for the fund, which is due to be set up in 2011. But no figure was put on how much money will go into it.

Separately, ministers repeated their political promise made last year at Copenhagen to raise $100bn in climate aid by 2020, starting with $30bn by 2012 for “fast track” financing.


Formal backing was given for the UN’s deforestation scheme, Redd (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation), under which rich countries pay poorer nations not to chop down forests and so lock away carbon emissions.

But details on when and exactly what form the scheme will take — particularly whether developed countries will be able to use it to “offset” their emissions rather than make cuts at home — are still vague.

Kyoto protocol: Decisions on the future of the Kyoto protocol, the current international treaty binding rich countries to cut emissions, were effectively deferred until South Africa next year. Whether countries will sign up for a second “commitment period” to cuts beyond 2012 remains to be seen.

Decisions on the role that the protocol will play in an ultimate future legal document that binds the world’s countries to emissions cuts — the “holy grail” of the UN negotiations — were delayed.

Technology transfer

The idea of transferring knowledge of clean technology between countries was backed at Cancun. A technology executive committee and a climate technology centre and network are to be set up, but there are no details on the money, where they will be based, when or by whom.

Countries agreed to the principle of having their emissions cuts inspected. Such “monitoring, reporting and verification” will depend on the size of the country’s economy, though who will carry out the inspections was not specified.


COP 17, Durban

  • An agreement among by more than 190 nations to work towards a future treaty that would require all countries to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.
    • To be decided by 2015 and to come into force by 2020
    • The process for doing so, called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, would develop a new protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force that will be applicable to all Parties to the UN Climate Convention
  • Agreed to launch a work plan to identify options for closing the ‘ambition gap’ between countries’ current emissions reduction pledges for 2020 and the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degree C
  • New arrangements for making more transparent the actions taken by both developed and developing countries to address their emissions
  • Also agreed to on the creation of a fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change, and to measures involving the preservation of tropical forests and the development of clean energy technology
  • The deal looks to renew the Kyoto Protocol for several more years. This will be decided
    • The second commitment period will run from 2013 to end of 2017
  • Next summit in Qatar

Important Organisations relating to environment/climate change


Name HQ etc General info
Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Bogor, Indonesia Had received the Queen’s Award for Forestry

View of different parties on climate change mitigation

  • Developed countries
  • Developing countries
  • Most vulnerable countries/ AOSIS countries
  • Activists/Environmental Groups


  • Activists have offered a serious criticism of market based measures like CDM, emissions trading and REDD as they will affect the developing countries and indigenous people adversely.
Civilspreparation is a dedicated team involved in revolutionizing the education through Digital India Campaign. We provide the free notes for Civil Services (IAS) Exam and develop the true potential of Civil Services (IAS) Aspirants through regular tests for Civil Services (IAS) Prelims and Civil Services (IAS) Mains examination. Detail strategy for Civil Services (IAS) Prelims and Civil Services (IAS) Mains examination are shared by the Civil Services (IAS) Toppers. For any doubt related to Civil Services (IAS) ie Civil Services (IAS) Prelims or Civil Services (IAS) Mains examination Contact Us You could Join any of the following programs by Civil Services (IAS) notes for integrated Civil Services (IAS) Prelims and Civil Services (IAS) Mains Program:-
  1. CrackCivil Services (IAS)2017 Prelims Program:- 10 Civil Services (IAS) Prelims Mock Tests and Comprehensive Civil Services (IAS) Prelims Notes
  2. CrackCivil Services (IAS)2016 Mains Program :- 16 Civil Services (IAS) Mains Mock Tests and Complete Civil Services (IAS) Mains Notes
  3. CrackCivil Services (IAS)2016 Video Lecture Program:- Complete video lectures for Civil Services (IAS) Prelims and Mains Exam
  4. CrackIFos2016 Mains Test series and Notes Program