The signatories to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The Protocol finally entered into force in early 2005 and its 190 member countries meet annually to negotiate further refinement and development of the agreement.
Only one major industrialized nation, the United States, has not ratified Kyoto.
The Kyoto Protocol commits the signatories from developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from their 1990 level by the target period of 2008-2012. This has in turn resulted in the adoption of a series of regional and national reduction targets. In the European Union, for instance, the commitment is to an overall reduction of 8%. In order to help reach this target, the EU has also agreed a target to increase its proportion of renewable energy from 6% to 12% by 2010.
At present, the 193 members of the UNFCCC are negotiating a new climate change agreement that should enable all countries to continue contributing to ambitious and fair emission reductions. Unfortunately the ambition to reach such an agreement in Copenhagen failed and governments will continue negotiating in 2010 and possibly beyond to reach a new fair, ambitous and legally binding deal. Such a deal will need to ensure industrialized countries reduce their emissions on average by at least 40% by 2020, as compared to 1990 emissions. They will further need to provide at least $US 140 billion a year to developing countries to enable them to adapt to climate change, to protect their forests and to achieve the energy revolution. Developing countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 30% as compared to the projected growth of their emissions by 2020.
Renwable energy targets
In recent years, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as increase energy security, a growing number of countries have established targets for renewable energy. These are either expressed in terms of installed capacity or as a percentage of energy consumption. These targets have served as important catalysts for increasing the share of renewable energy throughout the world.
A time period of just a few years is not long enough in the electricity sector, however, where the investment horizon can be up to 40 years. Renewable energy targets therefore need to have short, medium and long term steps and must be legally binding in order to be effective. They should also be supported by mechanisms such as feed-in tariffs for renewable electricity generation. In order for the proportion of renewable energy to increase significantly, targets must be set in accordance with the local potential for each technology (wind, solar, biomass etc) and be complemented by policies that develop the skills and manufacturing bases to deliver the agreed quantity of renewable energy.
Renewable Energy Policy Agenda
Greenpeace and the renewables industry have a clear agenda for the policy changes that need to be made to encourage a shift to renewable sources.
The main demands are:
- Phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
- Internalise external (social and environmental) costs through 'cap and trade' emissions trading.
- Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles.
- Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation.
- Reform the electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators.
- Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example through feed-in tariff payments.
- Implement better labelling and disclosure mechanisms to provide more environmental product information.
- Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.