Obstacles to Climate Change Treaty

At a summit meeting held earlier today in Italy, developing nations refused to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a specific amount. Developed countries, led by the US, Europe and Japan, were hoping to reach a consensus among the world’s top polluters to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, by 50 percent by mid-century.  In a separate statement, the eight leading industrialized nations embraced the idea of cutting their emissions 80 by 2050, although the resolution was non-binding.

It will be difficult to develop a binding treaty aimed at mitigating global warming for several reasons.  One is that developing countries, particularly China and India, need to consume more and more energy as their economies rapidly develop.  Reducing poverty and improving the standard of living of their citizens is higher on their agenda than tackling global warming.  Many people in those countries believe that global warming is a problem created by the developed nations and should therefore be solved by them. 

Another obstacle is the reluctance of members of Congress to place more financial burdens related to regulation compliance on American corporations, especially in the midst of a major economic recession.  Even though President Obama is pushing for an environmental treaty, it is doubtful if legislators, including those within his own party, will agree to the level of emissions cuts that European governments are seeking.

Leaders around the world have acknowledged the threat posed by global warming and recognize the negative impact it could have on the environment in the coming decades if measures are not taken to reduce emissions.  They will certainly set goals and make non-binding agreements to try to meet them, but it is unlikely that nations outside of Europe and Japan will legally commit themselves to making economically onerous efforts to achieve major reductions in the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere.

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