The United Nations Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon, has described climate change as the “greatest threat facing humanity.” Average global temperatures increased approximately 1.3Â° Fahrenheit between 1906 and 2005 as concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have increased dramatically. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that most of this temperature increase is “very likely”—between 90 to 95% likely—due to human activities.
Through the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, governments have been seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, contains binding greenhouse gas mitigation targets for developed countries. These emissions reduction targets, however, amounted to just 5% of global emissions, too little to prevent significant climate change. Moreover, governments have not agreed on binding commitments to reduce emissions beyond 2012. Governments are now negotiating new rules to reduce emissions of climate change, finance emissions reductions in developing countries, and develop strategies to adapt to unavoidable climate change impacts.
IELP has been providing legal support in the ongoing negotiations for some of the countries most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change. In addition, IELP works creatively outside the UNFCCC process to progress global action on climate change. For example, IELP petitioned to declare Glacier National Park as a World Heritage Site in danger due to climate change and explored whether the World Trade Organization’s rules restricting subsidies could be used to phrase out fossil fuel subsidies.