The international response to the problem of climate change took its first major step forward with the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The Convention sets an ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.” It states that “such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.” Among other provisions, the Convention requires industrialized countries to prepare and update inventories of greenhouse gas emissions.
As its name implies, the UNFCCC was always intended to be a “framework” document — something to be amended over time so that efforts to deal with climate change can be strengthened. The first addition to the treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted in 1997. It set mandatory targets for greenhouse gas emissions for most industrialized nations, aiming for an overall 5% reduction from 1990 levels. The Clinton Administration signed the Protocol but the Bush Administration withdrew U.S. support.
The Bush Administration has focused U.S. policy on climate research, development of new technologies, and on voluntary programs to reduce GHG emissions.
State & Regional
There is growing interest in the United States in state-level actions to address the effects of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. More than 20 states have prepared a state climate action plan. Many states have held stakeholder processes similar to what Florida has launched, and those processes have led to new policies being proposed or adopted. Typically, the policies serve multiple aims such as improving air quality, reducing traffic congestion, securing reliable energy supplies, preserving land, or improving waste management, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.