Local Climate Change Roadmap
 
FAQ
1. What is Climate Change?
2. What is the origin of global warming?
3. What is the expected temperature increase on Earth?
4. What changes in climate can we expect?
5. What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?
6. What is the Kyoto Protocol?
7. How can countries reduce their emissions?
8. What is the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
9. What is the Conference of the Parties?
10. What are the Parties of the Conference of the Parties?
 
 
1. What is Climate Change?
The term Climate Change refers to variations in climate at the global level and to the variation of the regional climates of the planet over time. Those variations give rise to changes in temperature, precipitation, cloudiness and other climatic phenomena at the scale of historical periods. Those changes in average atmospheric conditions can occur on time scales that vary from decades to millions of years. These changes can originate from internal processes within the earth-atmosphere system (for example: variation of the solar activity) or, as is recently happening, be a result of human activity.
Climate change can therefore be caused by natural processes or occur as a result of human activity (anthropogenic origin). Among the causes of anthropogenic origin, most scientists give the main responsibility to greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which, make the atmosphere temperature rise when in excessive concentration. The anthropogenic activities responsible for increasing the Carbon Dioxide concentration include deforestation, fossil fuel burning and agricultural activities.
 
2. What is the origin of global warming?
There is a general consensus within the scientific community that the increase in average temperature observed in the past years is of anthropogenic origin (caused by human activity). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Association in 1988, mentioned in its latest report that a large part of the warming observed in the last 50 years is mainly caused by an increase of the greenhouse effect caused by increasing concentration of greenhouse gas of anthropogenic origin.
 

3. What is the expected temperature increase on Earth?
The climate models of the IPCC foresee an increase of the global surface temperature between 1.1 e 6.4 °C between 1990 e 2100. This range of variation reflects the use of different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions and different mathematical models. Although most studies take into account the period of time ending in 2100, global warming and climate change is expected to continue for more than a millennium, even if the concentrations of the different greenhouse gases stabilize.

Reconstructed Temperature

 
4. What changes in climate can we expect?
An increase in global temperature can cause several climatic variations, including an increase in average sea level which can lead to a loss of coastal areas or variations in precipitation patterns which can result in increased frequency and intensity of floods and droughts. Disturbances in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events may also occur, although it may be difficult to link specific events to global warming. Other consequences include changes in water quality, reduced agricultural production, melting glaciers, reductions in river discharge and lake volume, extinction of species and changes in distribution pattern of certain virus directly affecting human health.
 
5. What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?
The IPCC results from a joint action of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in 1988. It came from an attempt to provide technical, scientific and socio-economical information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and adaptation options. It is open to all members of the United Nations and WMO (www.ipcc.ch).
 
6. What is the Kyoto Protocol?
O Protocolo de Quioto é consequência de uma série de eventos iniciada com a Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, no Canadá (Outubro de 1988), seguida pelo IPCC's First Assessment Report em Sundsvall, Suécia (Agosto de 1990) e que culminou com a Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre as Alterações Climáticas (CQNUAC, ou UNFCCC em inglês) na conferência do Rio de Janeiro de 1992.
O Protocolo de Quioto é um tratado internacional com compromissos rígidos para a redução da emissão dos gases com efeito de estufa, considerados pela comunidade científica como a causa antropogénica determinante para o aquecimento global.
Discutido e negociado em Quioto, no Japão, em 1997, começou a ser assinado em Dezembro de 1997 e ratificado em Março de 1999. Para entrar em vigor, o Protocolo de Quioto precisava de ser ratificado por 55% dos países, que juntos, produzissem pelo menos 55% das emissões de gases com efeito de estufa. A ratificação pela Rússia, em 2004, permitiu a entrada em vigor do Protocolo em 16 de Fevereiro de 2005, tornando-o vinculativo para os Estados signatários.
Este Protocolo propõe um calendário para os países-membros no seu conjunto reduzirem a emissão de gases com efeito de estufa em, pelo menos, 5,2% em relação aos níveis de 1990 no período entre 2008 e 2012, sendo que alguns têm permissão para aumentar as suas emissões e outros têm de conseguir reduções significativas. As metas de redução também não são homogéneas para todos os países.
 
7. How can countries reduce their emissions?
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is relevant in several sectors of economic activity. The Kyoto Protocol encourages signatory countries to cooperate in order to achieve some basic actions:
• Reform the energy and transport sectors;
• Promote the use of renewable energy sources;
• Promote energy efficiency;
• Eliminate inappropriate financial mechanisms;
• Reduce Methane emissions;
• Protect forest and other Carbon sinks.
 
8. What is the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty resulting from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, informally known as the Earth Summit, organized in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
This treaty was signed by almost all countries of the world, as Parties, and has for main objective to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere to the level required to avoid dangerous alterations of the climate system. This threshold level has not yet been established. Most of the scientific community considers that, if emissions continue to increase at the actual pace, there will be severe and significant climatic variations on the planet, some scientists suggesting that it may even provoke a new ice age.
The treaty did not initially fix compulsory GHG emission limits and does not include legal orders. Instead, the Protocol includes implementation orders (called protocols) for signatories to establish compulsory emission targets. The main one, the Kyoto Protocol, became more known than the Framework Convention itself.
Due to the fact that GHG will continue to increase for several decades after emission, it is not possible to stop or invert climate change and we must therefore use mitigation measures to reduce the impact of climate change and create adaptation mechanisms for the changes that will occur.
Among the principles that form the basis of the Convention, the idea of common but differentiated responsibility prevails. As most of the actual concentration of GHG in the atmosphere is a result of the past emissions from industrialized countries, each country has a different responsibility. In order to differentiate this responsibility, the Parties of the Convention have divided the countries into 3 categories, with the lists attached in the annexes of the Convention.
 
9. What is the Conference of the Parties?
The countries members of the UNFCCC meet periodically at the occasion of the Conference of the Parties.
The first Conference of the Parties (COP-1) took place in Berlin in 1995 and established that Annex 1 countries would take on major commitments for the stabilization of GHG, via policies and quantitative reduction measures.
In Kyoto in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was approved, responding to the Berlin mandate and put the emphasis on quantitative reduction measures as the way to minimize the mitigation costs in each country. This new objective also gave rise to Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) to achieve emission reductions in Annex 1 countries while transferring resources from Annex 1 countries to developing countries. The definition of the operational regulations of the Kyoto Protocol has been a troubled process. First, The Conference of the Parties 2000 in The Hague (COP 6) has been suspended due to disagreement between the USA and European countries. At the beginning of 2001, the USA announced that they would not participate to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
Towards the middle of 2001, the discussion was reopened in Bonn, which is known as COP 6 BIS. This conference resulted in the Bonn Agreement, which made concessions to guarantee the participation of Japan and the Russian Federation, necessary to validate the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement also allowed for different interpretations of certain topics such as LULUCF (Land use, Land use change and Forestry), by countries which started to change position with the withdrawal of the USA and the concessions made for other countries.
At the end of 2001, the COP 7 in Marrakech gave birth to the Marrakech Agreement which reconciles political aspects of the Bonn Agreement and environmental aspects of the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement defines operational regulations for LULUCF, flexibility mechanism, national systems for emission inventory and additional information derived from the Kyoto Protocol and national communication processes. It has been necessary for European Union countries, G77 countries and China to give place to countries of the umbrella group (Japan, Australia, Canada and the Russian Federation). Even if the reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol were achieved, it would not be enough to reduce significantly the interferences between human activity and the climate system. The COP 7 also gave birth to a CDM Executive Committee and established a declaration which emphasizes the relation between sustainable development and climate change, defining the eradication of poverty and development as the main priority for developing countries.
There was a great concern about the post-Kyoto regime which was officially discussed in the COP 11 in Montreal. It was the beginning of discussions about what should be done after 2012 in order to integrate developing countries (mainly China, India and Brazil) in the issue of limiting emissions. This is a problematic issue since the category includes very poor countries such as those on the African continent, countries with some of the highest population growth and one of the major emitters, China.
The COP 13 in Indonesia in 2007 established the first agreement about what to do after 2012, when the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol will end. This agreement was however considered to be vague.
 
10. What are the Parties of the Conference of the Parties?
The Convention divides all countries in 3 different groups based on different levels of engagement.
The Annex 1 Parties are industrialized countries which were members of OECD in 1992 and countries with transition economies such as the Russian Federation, The Baltic States and various Central and Eastern European Countries.
The Annex 2 includes countries member of OECD but not the ones with transition economies. These Parties have to provide financial resources that allow developing countries to put in place actions and measures within the framework of the Convention in order to reduce GHG emissions and help them to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Annex 2 countries are also responsible to promote development and transfer green technologies to countries with transition economies and developing countries.
Most Parties not included in Annex 1 are developing countries. Some of these countries are recognized by the Convention as particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Other Parties are more vulnerable to the potential economical impacts of measure taken in response to climate change.
There are also observer countries.