• Among the most important international agreements to combat global warming are the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, effective 1984; the Kyoto Protocol, 1997; and the Copenhagen Accord, 2009. The goals of all these agreements are the limitation of the main cause of manmade global warming: greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions, caused chiefly by the burning of fossil fuels, are also targeted unilaterally by most member states of the 34-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OPEC) and by smaller, multilateral blocs through programs, such as the G8 Gleneagles Plan of Action 2005, which also focuses on the development and use of cleaner fuels.


    • In an article presented in 1999 at the Fourth Annual Cummings Colloquium on Environmental Law at Duke University, environmental law expert David G. Victor cited the creation of 1987's Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer as an example of how barriers to the enforcement of global warming agreements are created. Countries in fear of strong enforcement of the protocol simply threatened to weaken its mandates. As a result, the noncompliance section of the protocol was deferred, leaving the agreement without teeth. Until enforcement of these agreements becomes a priority, progress on the international front will remain slow.

    Kyoto Protocol Gap

    • According to a June 2011 story in "Business Green," the director of the United Nation's climate change office, Christiana Figueres, expects a "regulatory gap" after the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012. Developed nations, such as Japan, China and the U.S., have criticized the protocol -- the only legally binding international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions -- calling it outmoded and ineffective because it does not require emission limitation by large economies. Figueres believes that extension of the protocol is unlikely and that ratification of a new treaty would not come in time to avoid a gap.


    • Despite the upsides of global warming in Greenland, including longer tourist seasons and the ability to grow vegetables for the first time, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the island in May 2011 to encourage the eight-country Arctic Council to adopt a coordinated plan on climate change. According to a story in "The Washington Post," Greenlanders' embrace of global warming was not the only irony in Clinton's visit. Reporters also asked if the U.S.--the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses and fervent nonsignatory of international agreements to limit their emission--has the climate change cache necessary to inspire other countries to adopt global warming treaties.

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