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    Review of 'A short history of the successes and failures of the international climate change negotiations'

    A short history of the successes and failures of the international climate change negotiationsCrossref
    This manuscript provides a concise historical review of international negotiations about environment
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    A short history of the successes and failures of the international climate change negotiations

    The last 30 years have been a period of intense and continuous international negotiation to deal with climate change. During the same 30 years, humanity has doubled the amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There has, however, been progress and some notable successes. In 2015 at COP21, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement stating that they would limit global temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and would pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This was followed up at COP26 in Glasgow with many countries pledging to go net zero emissions by the middle of the century. But currently these pledges, if fulfilled, will only limit global average temperature to 2.4˚C to 2.8˚C. This article reviews the history of international climate change negotiations and examines what the key objectives are for future COP meetings.

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      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Earth & Environmental sciences
      COP26,COP27,Paris Agreement,net zero,Policy and law,Climate,UNFCCC,Sustainable development,climate emergency,negotiations,climate change,Kyoto Protocol,environmental social movements,The Environment

      Review text

      A short history of the successes and failures of the international climate change negotiations

      By Mark A Maslin and John Lang

      General Assessment

      This manuscript provides a concise historical review of international negotiations about environmental issue, climate change and biodiversity. It provides a useful summary of the progresses and failure of international policy dealing with climate change. That said, the manuscript is not novel and does not add new information to the available literature on this subject, also taking into consideration the numerous previous publications and books by the same authors.

      International political discussion about the threat of global change and climate warming started toward the end of 1980’s when discussion within United Nations stimulated the need of a scientific international panel, and consequently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set in 1988. Science of greenhouse effect started long before at the beginning of 19th century, although it was only in 1950 that the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate warming was fully recognized. The manuscript might mention, at least shortly, the enormous efforts of science community to convince the international policy about problems and risks connected to greenhouse gases and climate change

      The manuscript describes the outcome and problems connected to various negotiations and Conferences of parties (COP) starting from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 until the latest COP26 in Glasgow and the auspices for the forthcoming COP27 to be held in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt. It provides a useful a concise summary, although this subject has been extensively reported in the literature and media.

      Negotiations about climate change are difficult and failures to achieve really significant results on the avenue to decarbonization of economies are due to several factors. First of all, negotiations and various COP operates by consensus, meaning that a single country can prevent any decision. In addition, among the 196 parties there are very divergent economic, political and environmental interests. The parties also have very different climate responsibilities and the industrialized countries should pay to contribute the transition to zero-emission for less developed countries (Green Climate Fund). But the compensation Green Fund has not been paid.

      Even in the most optimistic scenario, reaching the target of net zero emission by 2050, global temperature will continue to increase at least in the coming decades, overshooting the target of 1.5°C increase compare to preindustrial level. Therefore, adaptation to climate change should be also a priority.

      The manuscript general message and conclusion are in the right directions while some interpretation in the text should be clarified and amended. It is true that Margaret Thatcher and George Bush senior contributed to put climate change and environmental problems on to the mainstream political agenda. However, it is also clear that their actual policy did not match their speeches and did not go in the right direction of a green development. Their government favored profound environmental changes including increased greenhouse gas emissions, and land use change. Margaret Thatcher also rejected climate predictions and Al Gore vision and what she called his “doomiest predictions”. On a historical point of view, these aspects should be clarified.

      It is also worth to mention that six months before COP21 and its relative success with the “Paris Agreement” the Vatican and Pope Francis published an Encyclical Letter entitled “Laudato Si’ – On the Care of our common home” (May 2015), with solid scientific basis. Regardless of religious belief, this document had a tremendous effect not limited to catholic people but to overall humanity. It addressed all humanity and, especially, policy makers and all countries to protect the Earth, nature and biological diversity and to to take "swift and unified global action” to combat climate change, land degradation and to promote economies based on fair distribution of resources and wealth. The Encyclical letter had a strong international echo and contributed to put climate change to the attention of international political agenda.

      When discussing decarbonization of the economy by corporation, I find at least peculiar the example of BP reported as targeted to be carbon neutral by 2050. They will still work to extract and sell oil and gas and, to my knowledge, BP is not one of the companies that have adopted Science Based Targets. It is clear that we have to abandon fossil fuels and therefore the actual oil and gas companies, all over the world, should convert to renewable energy. It is crystal clear that increasing emissions and adopting compensating measures is not sufficient to reach carbon neutral at the global level. Many companies are emitting a lot of greenhouse gases and they plant trees as compensating measure, but this is not sufficient. I strongly suggest to correct this example in the text.

      Style and specific comments

      The manuscript is generally well written. I have some specific corrections and suggestion for improving it. Some sentences require changes to make them scientifically rigorous.

      Abstract: In the second line it is misleading to state that humanity has doubled the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere. I suggest changing the sentence to: “During the same 30 years, humanity has doubled the emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”.

      Second last sentence should be changed to “But currently these pledges, if fulfilled, will only limit global average increase in temperature by 2.4°C to 2.8°C.”

      Text: When citing the ozone hole over Antarctica it should be cited that the first report was by Farmar, Gardiner and Shanklin, 1985. It is also worth to mention that, on the subject of stratospheric ozone protection and ozone hole, international negotiations represent one of few significant successes.

      In the text there are several Literature citations that are missing in the list of references. For example: Bell, 2021; Lewis and Maslin, 2021; Carnac, 2020. Please double check citations and list of references.


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