Global warming: beyond Kyoto

Doc. 10277
17 September 2004

Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs
Rapporteur: Mr Alan Meale, United Kingdom, Socialist Group


Global warming is one of the most serious challenges to the sustainable development of our planet: already a threat to the environment, it will in the long term also threaten living conditions in many countries. A joint, responsible and solidarity-based response from the international community is required in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Parliamentary Assembly considers, inter alia, that it is high time to develop renewable energies and limit the consumption of fossil energies, whilst simultaneously reducing our dependence on energy.

It invites member states which have ratified the Kyoto Protocol to swiftly implement it and those which have not yet ratified it, notably the Russian Federation, to do so in the shortest time possible. It invites parliaments and governments to take all legislative and fiscal measures needed to develop new sustainable energy policies.

I.          Draft resolution [Link to the adopted text]

1.                  Global warming is one of the most serious challenges to the sustainable development of our planet and ultimately for the survival of humankind, especially as it threatens vital resources or spheres such as environment, food, health, economic activity, peace and security. It therefore requires a joint, responsible and solidarity-based response from the international community.

2.                  The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe reiterates its ongoing commitment to sustainable development and, in particular, its backing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change aimed at stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.

3.                  It refers inter alia to its Resolutions 1243 (2001) on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and 1292 (2002) on the World Summit on Sustainable Development: ten years after Rio, as well as to its Recommendation 1594 (2003) on follow-up to the World Summit on sustainable development.

4.                  In this connection, the Assembly welcomes the signing of the Kyoto Protocol but is concerned to see that its implementation has been delayed owing to the lack of agreement from a minority of countries, most notably the United States.

5.                  The Assembly welcomes the adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, on 13 October 2003, of the Climate Directive, setting an overall threshold for greenhouse gas emissions, in tandem with a market in greenhouse gas emission allowances. The Assembly invites those European Union Member States not yet having done so to submit their national allocation plans to the Commission as soon as possible so that the Climate Directive may enter into force on 1 January 2005.

6.                  The Assembly notes that emissions from industrialised countries rose by 13.6% between 1990 and 2001. It is thus vital that the international community commits itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and assumes its responsibility for providing present and future generations with a viable and healthy environment. 

7.                  Moreover, at a time when the energy needs of countries such as Brazil, China, India and other rapidly developing countries are expanding in step with their development, the increasing recourse to hydrocarbons and problems relating to world energy needs and supplies constitute grounds for reducing our own dependency upon fossil fuels and other sources of pollution of greenhouse gas emissions before the end of the century.

8.                  The Assembly is concerned about the possible proliferation of international flashpoints and the threat of wars over the growth of states overly dependant upon dwindling hydrocarbon resources, likely to be exhausted by the end of the century.

9.                  It believes it vital to promote the development of and access to renewable energies as a priority.  Further, it points out that whilst such energy sources are largely local, other energy markets tend to be part of global operations.

10.               The Assembly believes that renewable energies would help to eradicate or significantly reduce the poverty and energy dependency of developing countries, a great many of which having access to abundant supplies of such commodities.  It therefore believes that it lies with advanced industrialist nations, those largely responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, to help other developing countries by sharing their technologies and know-how in order to help them achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

11.               It stresses that governments and their parliaments, the driving forces in societal change, have a crucial role to play in global awareness-building as well as for ensuring the security and well-being of their populations. It thus warns against forces which often attempt to steer their own minority interests to the forefront to take precedence over the rights and interests of humanity. 

12.               In relation to the cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol, this Assembly reiterates its belief that the costs of non-action are vastly underestimated, consequences, such as extreme meteorological conditions caused by global warming, being disastrous for those nations affected. 

13.               Consequently, the Assembly invites its member and observer states, to sign the Kyoto Protocol without delay.

14.               The Assembly also invites the governments and parliaments of the member states of the Council of Europe to:

i.          swiftly implement the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol ratified by them, inter alia by giving and honouring specific undertakings aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gases;

ii.         take legislative measures and adopt tax reforms in the energy sectors, aimed at penalising fossil fuel consumption whilst encouraging the use of renewable energies;

iii.          rationalise their transport policies by:

a.    developing public transport and supporting the development of hybrid vehicles;

b.    promoting freight transport by rail, sea, waterways and road-rail networks via the offering of greater incentives to those using them;

c.    controlling the development of air transport, in particular by taxing kerosene;

d.    applying tax systems which take into account the costs of transport and energy costs of any industrial location/relocation;

iv.         adopting the necessary regulations required to cut energy consumption in the construction and renovation of housing, in particular the imposition of higher standards for insulation or the use of energy resources;

v.          rethinking the areas of agriculture and sylviculture with a view to reducing greenhouse gases, in particular methane and nitrogen protoxyde emissions, whilst increasing CO2 absorption;

vi.         introducing legislation necessary to encourage renewable energy use at all levels: the development of research towards this objective promotion of industrial innovation, consumer accessibility, tax incentives, etc;

vii.        finally, launch information campaigns throughout the national media of all member states aimed at building awareness of the current state of the environment, the scale of the global warming phenomenon and the promotion of responsible policies and conduct by all citizens and industries.

II.         Explanatory memorandum by Mr Meale


1.                  Introduction

2.                  Greenhouse gases and climate change

3.                  Effects and consequences of climate change

3.1       Temperature and rainfall

3.2       Sea levels and currents

3.3       Hydrology and water resources

3.4       Ecosystems

3.5       Agriculture and forestry

3.6       The socio-economic effects

3.7       Human health

4.                  Facing the challenge, the international action

5.                  Conclusions


I        Major effects of climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion on human health

II       Climate changes – an integrated framework

Indicative Bibliography

1.         Introduction

1.         In the United Kingdom, the Thames flood barrier used to be activated less than once a year in the 1980s. Now it is activated six times a year. The general level of the seas has risen by 20 cm since 1900, as a result of both the melting ice caps and the dilating oceans. The consequences are already visible on our doorsteps. The 21st century could see the seas rise by another half-metre, threatening the populations of the great river deltas and island states. The loss of biodiversity and the strain on plant life will affect food safety, particularly in countries which are already poor, and their health situation will be further aggravated by the extension of the areas affected by tropical diseases.

2.         There is not a single essential area of human life – be it the environment, food, health, economic activity, peace or security – that is not threatened by global warming.

3.         The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe believes that climate change is one of the gravest challenges to sustainable development, the health and well-being of humanity and to the long term stability of the global economy. It recalled on several occasions that this challenge necessitates a joint, responsible and solidarity-based response from all of the international community.

4.         In its Resolutions 1243 (2001) on Kyoto Protocol on climate change: need for committed international solidarityand 1292 (2002) on World Summit on Sustainable Development: ten years after Riothe Parliamentary Assembly supported the Rio process and encouraged Member States to sign and ratify the Kyoto protocol. Moreover, the Parliamentary Assembly and its Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs expressed its disappointment at the repeated postponing of the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the Russian Federation.

5.         The Kyoto Protocol, if it were really implemented, provides for a 5% reduction in emissions in the developed countries by 2010 compared with their 1990 levels. This would mean that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would rise from 370 ppm[1] today to 382 in 2010. The real point of the Protocol is to succeed, by an international agreement, in reversing the tendency for emissions to increase. The picture is very different at present: the emissions of the richest countries increased by 13.6% between 1990 and 2001 and by 1% between 2000 and 2001.

2.         Greenhouse gases and climate change

6.         Today, opinion across the world agrees that, climate change is occurring on earth and that it is strongly influenced by changes in atmospheric concentrations of a number of gases, which trap infrared radiation from its surface (“the greenhouse effect”), in particular, water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere give rise to a natural greenhouse effect, without which the planet’s surface would be about 33░ C colder than it currently is.

7.         However, worryingly over the last hundred years or so, human activities have led to an increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases and other pollutants in the atmosphere. Mainstream scientists agree that the Earth’s climate is being affected by a build-up of these extra greenhouse gases – which include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and halogenated hydrocarbons (CFCs)  - caused by human activities, including electricity generation, agriculture and transportation.

8.         The contribution of such greenhouse gases to global warming depends of course upon their atmospheric concentration, residence time in the atmosphere and effectiveness in trapping radiation. For example, although halogenated hydrocarbons (CFCs) are present in the atmosphere in very small concentrations, they are important because their residence time is typically around 100 years, and each molecule has a greenhouse effect several thousands times greater than one of carbon dioxide.

9.         Carbon dioxide is also a major greenhouse gas, which is produced in large quantities and in a number of ways. In particular when fossil fuels are used to generate energy, forests are cut down, and then burned. As for methane and nitrous oxide, they are mostly emitted from agricultural activities and changes in land use, for instance land fill sites.

10.       CO2 from fossil fuel consumption is the main source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel deposits and their consumption, mainly to produce energy and  for deforestation, account for approximately three quarters of man-made CO2 emissions (ie some 5.9 billion metric tons of CO2 in 1992), a fifth of CH4 emissions and a significant proportion of N2O emissions.

11.       Scientific knowledge concerning emissions from deforestation is still tentative, but it is estimated that between 600 million and 2.6 billion metric tons of CO2 are emitted every year in the world. The production of lime (calcium oxide) by cement makers accounts for 2.5% of industrial CO2 emissions.

12.       The second most important greenhouse gas after CO2 is CH4, or methane, which is given off by livestock. Breeding livestock produces a quarter of all man-made emissions of CH4, ie about 100 million metric tons per year. Rice paddies, which produce 90% of the world’s rice, are at the origin of between one fifth and one quarter of all man-made methane emissions. And fertilisers are a major source of N2O.

Source: “Climate change: mobilising global effort “, National Communications, OECD, 1997, p.23

13.       So in 1990, in the industrialised countries, the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion broke down as follows: 38% for energy production, 24% for transport, 21% for other industrial activities, 16% for farming and domestic use.

14.       The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide - which accounts for about 50 percent of the additional, man-made greenhouse effect - is continuously increasing together with the other greenhouse gases.

Source: IPCC WG I, “Climate change- A threat to global development: acting now to safeguard the future”, Germany. Commission Protecting the Earth’s atmosphere, 1992, p.38 

* ppmv= part per million per volume (10-6 )

Source: IPCC WG I “ Climate change- A threat to global development: acting now to safeguard the future”, Germany. Commission Protecting the Earth’s atmosphere,1992, pag.38 

* ppbv= part per billion per volume (10-9 )

Source: IPCC WG I, “ Climate change- A threat to global development: acting now to safeguard the future”, Germany. Commission Protecting the Earth’s atmosphere,1992, pag.38 

3.         Effects and consequences of climate change

15.       The effects and consequences of changing climate and global warming are and will continue not to be felt similarly across our planet. For instance, regional climate changes will likely be very different from changes in the global average. In Europe for example, impacts of climate change will, in the interim, most probably be more negative for the South of Europe than for the North of Europe, the richest regions being less affected than the poorest ones. Differences from region to region could also concern both the magnitude and rate of climate change. Ecosystems or human settlements, equally sensitive to changes in climate.

16.       The extent to which these systems will be harmed by climate change depends of course on both magnitude of change and on their capacity to adapt. Further research therefore needs to be conducted to measure the adaptation capacity of each system and to determine what further action is needed for the most appropriate reaction to it.

17.       It is also clear that nations (and indeed regions within nations) vary in their ability to cope and adapt to global warming and changing climate. Some nations will likely experience more adverse effects than others, whilst other nations may benefit more than others. Poorer nations being generally more vulnerable to the consequences of global warming. Such nations tending to be more dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as subsistence agriculture, and/or a lack of resources to buffer themselves against the changes that global warming may bring.

18. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) jointly established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 in response to growing international concern about climate change. Its main role being to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change. In this respect, IPCC established 3 sectors:

19.       The IPCC has identified Africa as "the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of projected climate changes because widespread poverty within its boundaries limits its adaptation capabilities."

20.       It has also produced a series of computer models to help in anticipating the trend of climate change, used to predict the impacts and effects on environment and on human life.

21.       First and foremost, the IPCC confirmed in its Third Assessment Report that there was now “ new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”.

22.       Once more uncertainties remain in the process of projecting future climate trends which predict wide estimates, which foresee even the lower end of climate change ranges, likely to be dramatic with them thus causing unavoidable impacts on human life.

3.1       Temperature and rainfall

23.       According to the IPCC’s report, global average surface temperatures of the Earth have increased by at least 0.6░C over the 20th century. As atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise, scientists estimate that average global temperatures will continue to rise as a result. However, by how much and how fast remain uncertain. The IPCC projects further global warming of 1,4 to 5.8░C by the year 2100.

24.       Rising temperatures will also lead to changes in wind circulation, which will likely affect global rainfall distribution. Overall, rainfall volumes growing with increasing temperature and evaporation rates. However changes in rainfall frequency and intensity will vary from region to region. This, in turn will have a major impact on vegetation, biodiversity, as well as on productivity in agriculture and forestry.

25.       Because of such climate change, precipitation rates and patterns in Europe have themselves changed during this century, however clear trends are difficult to establish because of the large natural variability. Precipitation has generally increased in the northern half of Europe and decreased in the south. Climate change models suggest an increase in global mean precipitation but with increases in Europe smaller than the global mean.

3.2       Sea levels and currents

26.       Global warming causes oceans to warm and therefore expands and increases the melting of glaciers and sea ice. Climate change thus affects sea levels, which are currently rising. Indeed levels have already increased by 10-25 cm in the past 100 years. The IPCC estimates that, by 2100, sea levels could be 50 cm (range 15-95) above today’s levels, which could have a number of consequences, including:

flooding and displacement of wetlands and lowlands;

27.       It should also be noted that if sea levels rise by only few decimetres, a large number of coastal plains - many of them densely populated - will be flooded. Areas that are particularly at risk include estuaries of the rivers Nile, Ganges, Po, Indus, Niger, Mississippi, as well as various Pacific islands like Maldives Islands, coastlines of the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Russia, etc.

28.       Sea level rises would also include negative impacts on population flows in a proportion that is still difficult to evaluate. However, the migration of populations forced to leave flooded areas would threaten the socio-economical balance of the nations concerned, with different levels of impact, depending upon countries economic wealth.  

29.       A rise of sea levels would also jeopardise a wide variety of ecosystems, such as wetlands, some of which fulfil unique and vital functions for our environment. Once more, the global diversity of species will be reduced by the destruction of wetlands, dune areas, etc. and by the bleaching of coral reefs. The effects of such negative development are already noticeable today. In addition, there is a risk that there may be severe repercussions for the fisheries industries.

30.       Possible responses to the threat of sea level rise, would include :

31.       Global warming could lower the density of the Gulf Stream by 25% over the next 100 years and eventually cause it to disappear. The consequences for the areas bathed by the current would be temperature variations well in excess of the average for the planet. By way of an example, the loss of the Gulf Stream could mean winters in north-west Europe as extreme as those in Canada.

            3.3       Hydrology and water resources

32.       A changing climate is also likely to enhance water-related stresses in areas in Europe which are already sensitive in terms of their hydrology: the Mediterranean region, mountainous areas including the Alps, Northern Scandinavia, coastal zones together with others in Central and Eastern Europe.

33.       For example, global warming could result in the European Alps losing 95% of their glacier mass in the next 100 years. In addition, each 1░C local temperature rise would move the snow line upwards by 150 metres. Such changes would affect run-off river flows in terms of timing and volumes of water. Consequent changes in the hydrological cycle are difficult to be estimated, but they can include a possible increase in the frequency and severity of floods, and a possible reduction of water quality due to the intrusion of saline water into coastal aquifers and to a slowdown in river flows. Water quality will be most affected where salinity is already a problem due to over-exploitation of aquifers.

3.4       Ecosystems

34.       A further problem of climate change is how ecosystems will react to severe and rapidly changing conditions. Climate model predictions suggest that many ecosystems will not be able to adjust, which will have both ecological and dramatic socio-economic consequences. It is difficult to predict how ecosystems in general react to changes in temperature, precipitation and soil moisture, atmospheric carbon dioxide and other factors that change with the climate, and the effects of climate change on natural flora and fauna, however it is generally accepted such development would be dramatic.

35.       For instance, a main impact would occur in respect of individual wild species, especially in respect of changes in their geographic distribution. A rise of 1░C in annual mean temperature is equivalent to a northward shift of 200-300 km or an increase in altitude of 150-200 m. Therefore, in the process of adjusting to climate change, ecosystems will certainly migrate. Shifts of vegetations zones and changes in species composition will inevitably occur which then may bring a decline in global species diversity.

36.       As we are aware, ecosystems also offer indirect benefits as they mitigate extreme weather events, offer protection against avalanches, prevent wind and water erosion. If such benefits were lost, this would have a major impact on those nations resident with boundaries in such areas and whose economies have become dependent upon these environmental circumstances.

37.       In many cases, global warming would act in combination with other human factors, driving species to extinction, narrowing the genetic range within species, and transforming and ecosystems.

3.5       Agriculture and forestry

38.       Climate change could have also a range of effects on agriculture and forestry. For instance changes in climate parameters (temperatures, precipitation, clouds etc.) and in the chemical composition of the atmosphere could have a major impact on food production. Such shifts of climatic belts would inevitably cause substantial changes in farming methods and production levels.

39.       Further, due to increasing global warming, there will be shifts in cultivation zones. Plants growth will be jeopardised by changes in rainfall distribution, increase in UV-B radiation, and changes in the atmosphere’s chemical composition. Food supply, which is already problematic in many parts of the world could in future become yet more difficult. The disruptive effects on agriculture leading to falling crop yields in many regions, causing famine in some.

40.       Forest ecosystems would not be able to adjust easily to changes in ecological conditions as they will be affected by climate change. Of course the magnitude of the effects will vary widely from region to region. However, the reality is that such temporal changes would likely cause a shift in optimal conditions for many boreal trees, forcing them towards higher latitudes and/or higher elevations. Which, in term, would result in formations of new assemblages of trees as individual species will tend to move at their own pace and direction. Boreal forests being especially badly hit with some predictions suggesting that up to 40% may disappear. As for tropical forests, if they have been able to adapt to rapid climate change in the past times, they may have little chance to do so in the future because of continued human destruction and the resulting fragmentation. 

3.6       The socio-economic effects

41.       If ecosystems are impaired, this will inevitably have major socio-economic consequences. In developing countries where most people are directly dependent on intact ecosystems which provide not only firewood, but also sources of building materials, food and drugs. Industrialised societies too make use of ecosystems. Such functions will be jeopardised by climate change. In particular tourist destinations, mountainous food and water production areas and other important environmental sites which are highly depended upon the maintenance of climatic conditions.

42.       Climate change could also have an adverse impact on the species composition and the productivity of marine ecosystems, which in term would cause severe effects on fisheries and their downstream industries.

3.7       Human health

43.       It is very important to understand what effects environmental changes could have on human health, in order to make adjustments and investments in primary health and healthcare planning. Some evidence already shows that recent warming trends may have already affected health. Indeed some health effects are being directly related to climatic and weather variability, while others are connected to climate change. Given the uncertainty regarding potential effects on human health and how each organism will react, it is essential to focus on public debating  to reducing population vulnerability.

44.       Climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion are anticipated to have a range of other health effects. Some will be direct effects, such as deaths related to heat waves and skin cancers induced by ultraviolet radiation. Others will result from disturbances to complex physical and ecological processes, such as changes in patterns of infectious diseases, drinking-water supplies and agricultural yields. A range of these health effects may become evident by 2010; others would take longer. Further, failure to reduce fossil fuel combustion, as the principal mean of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, will result directly in a continuing and increasingly avoidable burden of mortality and disease from exposure to air pollution.

45.       One other particular issue of concern is the distribution of insects connected with vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and others. The World Health Organisation suggests that incidences of malaria and dengue fever could both expand considerably under conditions of climate change, perhaps back into areas of Europe and North America. The spread of such tropical diseases has to be taken into account, as the proportion of the world population exposed at risk from malaria may increase from around 45% today to approximately 60% in the latter half of this century.

4.         Facing the challenge, the international action

46.       Even though climate change is part of earth’s history, its current pace and the factor of human interference in it are new criteria of this century old phenomenon. The common objectives of securing a healthy planet for the generations to come and taking all the necessary efforts to free humanity from the threat of living on a planet irreversibly affected by human activities and the depletion of its resources are fairly straightforward. Thus an integrated approach is urgently needed, in terms of research, evaluation and implementation. All of which lie at the heart of the necessary response to this most serious issue.

47.       The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes (UNFCCC)[2], entered into force in 1994, provides the basic framework for international efforts to combat global warming which should be considered a success insofar as it has made both public and policy-makers more aware of the global ecological and economic dangers inherent in climate change. Today, a decade after its adoption, 186 governments (including the European Community) are now Parties to the Convention and it is rapidly approaching universal membership.

48.       Indeed since the Convention’s entry into force, Parties have met annually in the Conference of the Parties (COP) to monitor its implementation examine new research and initiatives and continue talks on how best to tackle climate change.

49.       The Convention sets as its prime objective the stabilisation of the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at levels that would prevent “dangerous” human interference with climate change. Such levels, which the Convention does not quantify, 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. To achieve these objectives, all Parties to it, those countries that have ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to the treaty- are subject to an important set of general commitments which place a fundamental obligation on both industrialized and developing countries to respond to climate changes.

50.       Building on the framework of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted in December 1997, and broke new ground with its legally-binding constraints on GHG emissions and innovative “mechanisms” aimed at cutting the cost of curbing emissions. The Protocol shares the Convention’s objective, principles and institutions, but significantly, also strengthens it by committing Annex I Parties to individual, legally-binding targets to limit or reduce their GHG emissions.

51.       The Protocol uses three key variables: 1) target: reduction of GHG emissions of Annex I countries by at least 5% below the 1990 levels; 2) timetable:2008-2012; 3) actors: only developed countries are legally bound; developing countries have no formal binding targets. In other words, the aim is the reduction of GHG emissions of developed countries by at least 5% below the 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.

52.       Delegates to the Conference of the Parties agreed to the following provisions:

53.       Countries will however have a certain degree of flexibility in how they make and measure their emissions reductions and will pursue emissions cuts in a wide range of economic sectors.

54.       The question to be addressed of course is whether the Protocol is a positive and effective legal instrument to solve the climate change problem. One could argue that the Protocol is a positive step, since it makes us aware about the environmental problems. However some consider it far too strong because it requires a degree of economic cost for fulfilling its objectives, or is totally inadequate to address the long-term climate problem as it requires only a small percentage of GHG emissions reduction. The reality is however even more stark and research clearly shows that, even if the objectives are fulfilled, the problem of climate change is not resolved.

55.       For instance the United States currently doesn’t agree with the implications of the Kyoto Protocol, since it leaves out 80% of the world (developing countries such as China which produces a high level of pollution) not legally bound by the agreement. Whilst the U.S. continues to refuse to cooperate, it is difficult to see how the rest of the world can make much progress regarding the problem. Equally, the Russian Federation sees in the Protocol a threat to their economical growth, because its economy depends upon large quantities of fossil driven energies. They consider that an effort of the order of 1 or 2% of their GDP by the year 2010 is out of the question. Especially considering that, because of the structure of the American economy, the cost would be comparatively higher than for Europeans. They also want an emission rights market organised on an international scale and expect the countries of the southern hemisphere to agree to ceiling levels. It is true that these countries will account for half of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. But without a strong and credible commitment by the wealthier countries, major transition countries like China, Brazil and India will never agree to target levels that might slow their growth and limit the needs of their economies.

56.       The Kyoto Protocol establishes three mechanisms to increase the flexibility and reduce the costs of making emissions cuts:

57.       However, being positive, even if the Kyoto Protocol hasn’t come into force yet, it represents an important first step in the international process, but more must be done both to implement the market-based mechanisms that were adopted in principle in Kyoto involving at the same time the rest of the world in a solution. Beyond the exact level of emission reductions in a given year, what counts is the long-term ambition. Whether or not the Protocol enters into force, the same fundamental challenge remains: engaging all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases in a common long-term effort to establish a durable strategy that can take us beyond Kyoto.

58.       In this respect, the European Union wants all industrialised countries to take urgent action to reduce or limit their future GHG emissions. The European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) was launched by the Commission in March 2000 to prepare additional policies and measures, as well as an emissions trading scheme, to ensure that the EU achieves the 8% cut in emissions by 2008-2012 to which it is committed under the Kyoto Protocol.

59.       The new legal basis of the compilation of the European Commission (EC) inventory is Decision No 280/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community greenhouse gas emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol. The purpose of this decision is to monitor all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions not controlled by the Montreal Protocol in the EC Member States, to transpose related requirements under the Kyoto Protocol into EC Law and to evaluate progress towards meeting greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

60.       Furthermore, on 13 October 2003 the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted the Climate Directive, setting a global limit on greenhouse gas emissions and providing for an emission rights market. This Directive is due to enter into force on 1 January 2005, but before that member states are supposed to let the EU Commission have, for evaluation, their national plans detailing their commitment to national emission quotas coherent with the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol.

61.       However, meeting the challenge of global warming will require sustained effort over decades:

62.       Responding effectively to this challenge will not be easy, because the causes and consequences of global warming-as well as the solutions to this problem-cut across every nation, sectors of their economies and every one of their communities. 

63.       Several question marks must be taken into account. For example how best to orient action to the ultimate objective of climate stabilization, manage the costs of climate action; and how to meet agreements that are fair.

64.       It is also important to know the socio-economic evolution for each country and if it is possible future climate changes, in order to identify the most vulnerable segments of mankind and their abilities to adapt.

65.       At first glance, the most striking effect of a climate protection policy is the cost incurred, e.g. increases in the price of resources whose use has adverse effects on the climate, as well as the costs involved in energy conservation, and research expenditure needed to develop new, adapted technologies. However, this view neglects the fact that investments in climate protection can open up new national and international markets for a variety of different economic sectors, including small craft establishments which carry out thermal insulation, research institutes which help utilise the technical and economic potential of renewable energy sources, and also large corporations which may develop new technologies for optimising the transport sector.

66.       Urgent action is needed not only because of the climate but also because hydrocarbons are becoming increasingly scarce, a trend which will penalise Europe well before the North American continent, which has ample non-conventional oil reserves (shales, tar sands in Canada) and coal deposits. The increasing scarcity of our present conventional energy resources will lead to growing tensions and wars between countries. One only has to consider the geopolitical tensions and wars that are ravaging the Middle East today, where three quarters of the world’s oil deposits are located, to see that the balance of the whole international house of cards will be threatened if alternative sources of energy are not developed and turned into “conventional” resources before we run out of oil and coal.

67.       As we are all aware, the current problem does not only affect the present generation. We will be the first to bear the costs of the climate protection measures adopted and we will have to pay not only for what we have done ourselves, but also for the failings of earlier generations and for the well-being of future generations.

68.       It is therefore critical that when responding to the problem of climate change governments act to change the ways in which societies produce and consume goods and services. Of course, as climates are continuously changing and societies are constantly evolving it is hard to identify the perfect adaptation strategies, policies or measures that have to be taken into account. It might be tempting to assume that a policy adopted in one country would be applicable to other countries. But, such assumptions usually fail to take into account significant variations between countries because such differences may be critical in assessing the appropriateness of given policies.

69.       However, international co-operation is vital- with countries working to reduce emissions simultaneously, learning in partnership with one another. This requires regular contact between nations to share their experience. Continued and enhanced efforts will clearly be needed to take advantage of international synergies, to benefit from developing global experiences.

70.       How the world and Europe should respond to the issue of global warming is a difficult question. Just trying to adapt is not enough, it simply imposes cost burdens on future generation without doing anything to reduce further warming. Global warming is irreversible and the longer the delay, the more warming the world is committed to. Such delay is “inter-generationally unfair” because current generations have an obligation not to impose heavy costs on future generations. The concept of sustainable development is therefore essential in this regard as it represents the only real chance of securing a healthy planet for future generation.

71.       Climate measures must be taken and firmly integrated into already existing management and the policy frameworks of each individual country. Society as a whole, governments and citizens alike, must be aware of the problem and take action, each at his or her own level, to contribute to the effort to change our energy consumption habits at every level.

72.       As previously stated, a wide variety of policies are available to governments seeking to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from energy and energy-related sectors. In this respect, two further factors should be considered. Firstly, how rapidly the policy will realise change and secondly which decision-makers ought to be involved.

73.       Policy actions should also be categorised into several distinct groups:

74.       Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should thus be accompanied by efforts to protect and promote the natural absorption of these gases. Of course, the most critical barrier to the adoption of any new policies and measures will be political. One of the most invoked alternatives which causes great difficulty with governments, industry and the public being the subject and cost of renewable energy sources, non fossil energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydropower, biomass, etc.

75.       It is worth remembering that in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, the energy intensity (the energy consumed per unit of GDP) of the OECD countries decreased by 2.5% per year until 1982. Unfortunately, with the return of cheap oil, the energy saving effort has relaxed and the decrease over the last 15 has not exceeded 0.7%. Substantial energy savings need to be made, and fast, if we want to save the climate and avoid the problems associated with tensions on the hydrocarbon market. Otherwise things can only get worse. 

76.       Industrial emissions (excluding energy production) have generally decreased over the last thirty years, while production has increased. Although the growth of the service sector and delocalisations partly explain this phenomenon, it is mainly the fruit of the technical progress made before oil prices collapsed in 1986.

77.       This is the proof, if any is needed, that everyone can make an effort provided there is a strong incentive and an obvious benefit to be had.

78.       It is the duty of governments to support economic policies that help improve people’s well-being. This support must look beyond the interests of industrial groups, and governments must not let lobbyists, however powerful, dictate their economic policies.

79.       Such energy sources have significant potential and, if used sensibly, could represent a considerable proportion of total world energy production in the decades to come.

80.       They also have an important role to play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, thus increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy balance whilst greatly enhancing sustainability. Renewable energy sources being expected to be economically competitive with conventional sources in the medium to long term.

81.       Clearly, one of the most effective ways of fulfilling the targets of the Kyoto protocol would be to encourage use of such resources rather than fossil fuels. Technology is also a critical element of any response to climate change, especially in the energy sector. Yet today’s technologies are not being deployed quickly enough, or on a sufficiently large enough scale, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly in the short term. Worse still, long-term research and development resources are becoming scarcer, making it more difficult to develop fresh technologies that could reduce emissions in the long term.

82.       Governments and industries, working together have important roles in turning these trends around as indeed they have in developing strategies to improve the awareness of society, via education to get people to understand the seriousness of the problem which is threatening not only their quality of life but also mankind itself.

5.         Conclusions

83.       Climate change has known and potentially disastrous negative effects on all human, animal and plant life on earth.  Global warming poses a threat to all the things on which human life depends – food, its safety, the environment, quality of lifes, health, economic activity and life resources.

84.       The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been a success, insofar as it has made both the public and policy-makers more aware of the global ecological and economic dangers inherent in climate change.  The Kyoto protocol also marks a step forward in the effort to curb global warming, since it includes binding, quantified objectives for limiting and reducing greenhouse gases.

85.       Abandoning efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, on the pretext that developing countries are being inhibited economically by it, or that Russia has not ratified the Protocol or the Protocol itself hasn’t yet come into force, is tantamount to denying global warming is a problem, at a time when every new day brings dramatic proofs of climatic changes. The prospect of rapid economic development in countries such as China highlighting to the scale of the problem.

86.       We support the European Union’s efforts, which have produced all the legal machinery needed to achieve global reduction objectives for greenhouse gas emissions.

87.       The Council of Europe also has a crucial role to play in ensuring that nations in the Greater European area and beyond, with their individual strengths, economic and political maturity, are aware of the ecological dangers literally threatening our planet’s existence.

88.       The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe therefore repeats its insistence that all its member states must take the necessary measures to develop international cooperation to face the tremendous challenge imposed on humanity by global warming and to strike out much further and beyond the simple ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, to ensure future generations survival on our planet.


Major effects of climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion on human health[3]


Climate Change – an integrated framework

Source: IPCC, Climate change 2001, Third Assessment Report

Indicative Bibliography

Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs

Reference to committee: Doc. 10134, reference no. 2956 of 26 April 2004

Draft resolution adopted by the committee on 8 September 2004

Members of the committee: MM. Gubert (Chairman), Meale, NazarÚ Pereira, Schmied (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Ašikg÷z, Akselsen, Andov, Annemans, Mrs Anttila, MM. Banac, Baura, Bruce (Alternate: Wray), ăavusoglu, Sir Sydney Chapman, Mrs Chikhradze, Mrs Ciemniak, MM. Coifan, Cosarciuc, Dedja, Deittert, Delattre, Donabauer, Duivesteijn, Duka-Zˇlyomi, Ekes, Etherington, Fernandez, Frunda, Giovanelli, Mrs Gojkovic, MM. G÷tz, Grabowski, Grachev, Gunnarsson, Mrs Hajiyeva, Mrs Herczog, MM. Hladiy, H÷gmark, Huss, Ilascu, Mrs Jńger (Alternate: Mr Wodarg), MM. Kalezic, Mrs Kanelli, MM. Karapetyan, Klympush, Kolesnikov, Kortenhorst (Alternate: Platvoet), Kužvart, Libicki, Livaneli, Lobkowicz, Loncle (Alternate : Lengagne), Maissen (Alternate: Dupraz), Masseret, Mauro (Alternate: Nessa),  Mrs Mesquita, MM. Meyer, Milojevic, Mokry (Alternate: Mrs Smirnova), Mrs Ohlsson, MM. Oliverio, Opmann, Mrs Papadimitriou, MM. Podobnik, de Puig, Pullicino Orlando, Rattini, Mrs Schicker, MM. Sizopoulos, Steenblock, Ms St°jberg, Mrs Stoyanova, MM. Timmerrmans, Tulaev, Txueka Isasti, Vakilov, Velikov, Wright, Zhevago.

N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in bold.

Secretariat to the committee: Mr Sixto, Mr Torcatoriu and Ms TrÚvisan

[1] ppm: parts per million in volume (the number of molecules of CO2 in a bottle of air containing a million molecules).

[2] adopted in 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit

[3] Source: McMichael, “Climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion: Early effects on our health in Europe”, World Health Organization. Regional, Office for Europe, 2000, p.22