Copenhagen and beyond : a legal analysis of the recent climate change negotiations and decisions and their contributions towards the future international climate change regime.
Climate change has been described as the most complicated problem that the world faces today but the most serious problem that the world faces in the future. The problem of climate change is caused by an increase of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions in the atmosphere. During the past 150 years, human activities have led to an exponential growth in GHG emissions. Their heavy concentration in the atmosphere results in an increase in the warming potential of the atmosphere leading to global climate change. This can result in a number of adverse environmental effects. In 1992 in Rio, countries negotiated and joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which had as its ultimate objective to achieve the stabilisation of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The Protocol’s first commitment period ran from 2008 to 2012. Since the Kyoto Protocol entered into force, the UNFCCC’s aim became to negotiate what would happen after the protocol’s expiry. However, due to the complexity nature of the climate change problem and the negotiations themselves, the solution finding process has suffered serious lack of progress. This resulted in parties in 2011, deciding to extend the life of Protocol from 2013 to 2020. In continued attempts to negotiate the protocol’s successor, Conference of Parties (COPs) (The COP is the ultimate decision making and supreme body of the UNFCCC authorised to make and implement decisions to promote the implementation of the UNFCCC. It is authorised to adopt new protocols under the UNFCCC and plays a substantial role in the development of new obligations by the parties to the convention) meet annually. In so doing, the COPs contribute to the evolution of the international climate change regime. The aim of this study is to critically evaluate the extent to which the recent annual climate change negotiations (COP 15 to COP 19) have contributed to the legal evolution and shaping of the future climate change regime. The COP outcomes will be analyzed within legal lenses and in an attempt to answer the main research question; three fundamental mitigation related legal questions will be discussed. These three questions are: (i) What approach is likely to be adopted in the future climate change regime between a bottom up and a top down approach? (ii) What is the likely legal form and architecture of the future climate regime? And, (iii) What are the most likely interpretations of the nature and extent of differential treatment between developed and developing states in such an instrument? After such an extensive critical analysis of the COP decisions, a possible prognosis of the structure of the anticipated future climate regime will be given.