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Climate Change and International Law (Essay Sample)


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Climate Change and International Law
Climate Change and International Law
Climate change has been a more recent phenomenon that has become of global concern. Notably, the urgency has been more salient with the heightened use of fossil fuels in most developed countries hence exposing the rest of the world to increased degrees of vulnerabilities. Consequently, there have been increased calls for international law to establish a legal framework that could foster mitigation efforts to control climate change and ways of adapting to changing global climate. However, critics have pointed out that the international law might not respond fast enough to protecting the environment by reducing global emissions. This paper will highlight the various failures by the international legal climate change regimes throughout history in addressing climate change and the numerous legal constraints that hinder climate protection efforts.
First and foremost, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has had no significant impact on climate protection efforts due to an underdeveloped operational framework. Established in the Rio conference in 1992, UNFCCC had, since creation, operated within a vague legal mandate because the convection fails to mention the level of acceptable greenhouse gas emission explicitly. Despite the convection being the stabilization of greenhouse emissions at levels that would not present a threat to the climate system through anthropogenic interference, the convection does not provide for the reversal of emissions. Moreover, the objective to be followed by UNFCCC does not have a timeframe hence making efforts by the convection less effective. The 2nd article in the convention reads that the goals formulated need not be realized immediately because the ecosystem is supposed to be allowed sufficient time to adapt to the climate change, thereby ensuring food security and continued economic development (Bodansky, Brunnée & Rajamani, 2017). Overall, the UNFCCC has been accused of only making vague commitments on stabilizing greenhouse emissions yet no explicit action on the actual reduction.
Secondly, despite having enjoyed successes relative to its predecessor (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol also faced some challenges in its efforts towards controlling climate change. Launched in 1997 and enforced in 2005, the treaty aimed to strengthen the global response to climate change by fast-tracking negotiations among countries that the UNFCCC failed to do. Moreover, the Kyoto Protocol aimed at placing quantitative restrictions on greenhouse emission levels. However, despite building upon the efforts of UNFCCC, the protocol faced its fair share of failures on the road to achieving control over climate change. In cognizant of the international community's initial support, the protocol ultimately failed at making any significant emission reductions on a global scale due to broad participation by all UNFCCC parties (Rosen, 2015). The current Kyoto period (2012-2020) is still not operational due to inadequate ratification from member countries, particularly the largest greenhouse gas emitters such as the US and South Africa, further exemplifying the lack of commitment. Hence, the lack of commitment to seeing through global pacts on climate change has taken a toll on the Kyoto Protocol's effectiveness and, ultimately, international law protecting the environment.
Lastly, the existence of Customary International Law places constraints on efforts that aim to reduce the effects of climate change. Typically, Customary International Law places an obligation on countries that derive their agreements from consistent state practice instead of express agreements among states. Therefore, under the aforementioned law, the environmental principles such as the no-harm principle could only prevent, control, and reduce environmental harm that a condition could affect other states yet fail to prevent inter boundary environmental harm. Hence, the principle has only been in effect while settling regional-specific c

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