Climate change as a result of human activity is no longer in question. The summary report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it unequivocally clear that the vast quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere by vehicles and industrial smokestacks were trapping the earth's heat. Rising global temperatures would, in turn, lead to more frequent heat waves, droughts, and powerful storms as well as a dangerous rise in sea-level and acute water scarcity. The challenge now is how to go about limiting global warming. In a report prepared for the British Government, Sir Nicholas Stern, its adviser on the economics of climate change and development, pointed out that it would be far cheaper to take strong measures now to cut emissions and stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at acceptable levels than to face the economic consequences of catastrophic climate change. But meaningful cuts in emissions will require industrialised as well as rapidly industrialising countries to act in unison. After a recent meeting in Washington D.C., legislators from G-8 countries along with those from China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa issued a landmark statement asking their governments to sign up to a "a measurable long-term goal to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere." The `G8 + 5' account for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Since greenhouse gas emissions are closely related to industrial activity, the Kyoto Protocol required industrialised countries to meet targets for cutting their emissions. The United States has refused to be governed by the Protocol, which came into force in 2005. However, even if the United States comes on board, the developed countries are not going to be able to achieve the necessary emission reductions on their own. China is second only to the United States in its emission of greenhouse gases; and India is a rising contributor to global warming. The G8 + 5 legislators have sensibly urged global negotiations towards "a binding U.N. framework signed up to by all the major economies" that would take effect when the Kyoto Protocol draws to a close in 2012. Establishing a post-Kyoto framework to govern greenhouse gas emissions is not going to be easy. China, India, and other developing countries are likely to refuse to limit their emissions if it denies them economic growth. A number of thorny issues will need to be settled through lengthy and complex bargaining. For that very reason, negotiation towards a post-Kyoto framework must be given top priority.