In the Toolkit --

Introduction

  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources

    INTERNATIONAL ACTION

    The League has been a strong proponent of full U.S. participation in international efforts to find global solutions to many environmental problems, including climate change. The League strongly supports U.S. ratification of the COP 21 Paris Agreement reached in December 2015.

    International Climate Negotiations -- A Brief Overview

    Earth Summit. In 1992, officials from 178 nations met in Rio de Janeiro for a United Nations Conference on Environment and Development -- also known as the Earth Summit. Marking the 20th anniversary of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, the Rio meeting broadened the scope of environmental diplomacy to include the concept of sustainable development.

    Conference results included the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a set of 27 legally non-binding principles defining the rights of people to development and their responsibility to safeguard the common environment. Notably, it introduced the concept of the precautionary principle, stating, "where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."

    In addition, three legally binding agreements were opened for signature: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

    UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Under the treaty, countries have differentiated responsibilities and obligations according to their level of economic development and are classified accordingly: Annex I, the most developed countries, including a subset of highly developed countries (Annex II) and countries with economies in transition (EIT), and non-Annex I countries. The Convention enjoys near universal membership, having been ratified by 195 countries and the European Union.

    Conference of the Parties (COP). The signatories to the UNFCCC, known as Parties to the Convention, meet annually in a Conference of the Parties (COP), the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. The COP assesses the impact of the measures taken by the Parties and the progress made in dealing with climate change -- and adopts decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention. The 21st such meeting (COP 21) will be held in Paris in December 2015.

    Kyoto Protocol. Although an important step forward, the UNFCCC did not set quantitative targets and firm timelines for achieving tangible emissions reductions. Subsequent negotiations resulted in the signing of the Kyoto Protocol at COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, establishing legally binding emissions-reduction targets for industrialized countries. Individual targets were set for each country, amounting collectively to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels, to be achieved during a first commitment period from 2008 to 2012. (The target set for the United States was 7 percent below 1990 levels.)

    To be implemented, the Protocol had to be ratified by at least 55 parties to the Convention, and the ratifying countries had to account for at least 55 percent of Annex I CO2 emissions for 1990. Since the U.S. and Russia were responsible for 36 percent and 17 percent respectively, ratification by at least one of the two countries was essential for implementation of the Protocol. Russia was eventually persuaded to ratify the Protocol, which officially entered into force in February 2005. To date, 192 States and the European Union have ratified the Protocol. The U.S. signed but has not ratified the Protocol, and Canada withdrew from the Protocol in 2012.

    Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, meeting in Doha, Qatar, in 2012, adopted an amendment establishing a second commitment period from 2013 to 2020. The amendment set new emissions-reduction targets for developed countries, committing participants to cutting emissions by an average of 18 percent below 1990 levels. Three countries that agreed to the binding targets of the first commitment period -- Japan, New Zealand, and Russia -- have declined to join the second commitment period. 

    Durbin Platform for Enhanced Action. COP 17 held in Durbin, South Africa, in 2011, marked a turning point in climate change negotiations. The Parties agreed to launch a process to develop a new protocol with legal force and applicable to all the Parties (including developing countries), to be ready for adoption at COP 21 in 2015 and to go into effect in 2020.

    Paris Agreement. Whereas a top-down approach was taken with the Kyoto Protocol, which set binding emissions targets for developed countries, the Paris Agreement finalized at COP 21 in December 2015 employs a bottom-up approach. Every country is to determine its own climate commitment (its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC), taking into account its own circumstances, priorities, and capability.

    The Agreement sets a long-term temperature goal, to hold the increase in global temperatures to "well below 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels," and it includes aspirational language as well, to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. (Global average temperatures have already risen about 1°C relative to pre-industrial levels.) The agreement also sets an emissions goal, to reach global peaking of GHG emissions as soon as possible.

    The Agreement acknowledges that the commitments made thus far will not be enough to meet either the temperature goal or the emissions goal. In fact, the pledges would allow the atmosphere to warm 2.7°C by 2100. So the Agreement calls on all nations to strengthen their efforts and to submit new, more ambitious commitments by 2020 -- and to revise these pledges every five years thereafter.

    In addition, the Agreement places a legal obligation on the developed countries to provide climate financing to developing nations. The goal is to mobilize $100 billion annually to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels to renewable sources and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

    The Agreement provides that it is to enter into force 30 days after 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General. These requirements were satisfied on October 4, 2016, paving the way for the Agreement to enter into force on November 4, in time for the Marrakech Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco. This will be the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement.

    League Support for International Climate Negotiations

    Earth Summit. Recognizing the global nature of environmental problems and the importance of sustainable development, Leagues across the country hosted conferences and town meetings to funnel citizen input into the agenda for the 1992 Earth Summit. The LWVUS urged the Bush administration to participate fully in the conference, and the 1992 LWVUS Convention wrote to President Bush conveying League support for the Earth Summit's recommendations on global cooperation.

    Kyoto Protocol. Following the COP meeting in Kyoto in 1997, the League applauded President Clinton's initiative to make the United States a world leader in combating global warming. When the U.S. Senate later passed a resolution to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, League members lobbied their senators to reject actions that undermine progress in international negotiations to stop global warming.

    Copenhagen COP. The League sent a delegation of eight League leaders to Copenhagen as official NGO delegates to the 2009 climate change conference.

    People's Climate March. The League endorsed this 2014 global demonstration of public support for action to end climate change. Many League members participated in the march in New York City and in related events around the country.

    Paris Agreement. Delegates to the 2016 LWVUS Convention in Washington, DC, gave overwhelming approval to a resolution supporting U.S. ratification of the Paris Agreement.

    Additional Resources

    Last Updated: 11/12/2016