What’s Being Done Internationally


Greenhouse gas emissions, largely carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, have risen dramatically since the start of the industrial revolution. Globally, energy-related emissions have risen 145-fold since 1850—from 200 million tonnes to 29 billion tonnes a year—and are projected to rise another 54% by 2030.

Climate change is a global challenge and requires a global solution. Greenhouse gas emissions have the same impact on the atmosphere whether they originate in Washington, London or Beijing.

An effective strategy will require commitments and action by all the major emitting countries.

Here in Australia the Federal Government intends to introduce a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in 2011. Read more about Alcoa of Australia and climate change.


Global Emissions

  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, (largely carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of fossil fuels), have risen dramatically since the start of the industrial revolution. Globally, energy-related emissions have risen 145-fold since 1850—from 200 million tonnes to 29 billion tonnes a year—and are projected to rise another 54% by 2030.
  • The six largest emitters—the United States, China, the European Union (EU-27), Russia, Japan, and India—accounted for 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2005. 
  • The United States, with 5% of the world’s population, is responsible for 21% of energy-related global emissions and 30% of cumulative emissions since 1850. (Cumulative emissions are an important measure because of the long-lasting nature of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.) 
  • U.S. GHG emissions are projected to rise 5% above 2005 levels by 2010 (and 14% by 2020). By comparison, emissions are projected to hold steady in the EU, and grow by 4% in Japan, by 2010.
  • China and India’s GHG emissions are projected to grow by about 71% and 68% respectively by 2020. 
  • Annual GHG emissions from all developing countries have surpassed those of developed countries. However, the cumulative emissions of developing countries will not reach those of developed countries until several decades later. 
  • While overall emissions from developing countries are rising, their per capita emissions will remain much lower than those of developed countries. For example, the current per capita emissions of China and India are about one-fifth and one-twentieth below that of the United States.
Background on International Climate Change Negotiations

The international response to climate change was launched in 1992 with the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The convention established a long-term objective of stabilising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system . The UNFCCC set a voluntary goal of reducing emissions from developed countries to 1990 levels by 2000 – a goal that most countries did not meet. Currently 192 parties have ratified the UNFCCC.

Recognising that stronger action was needed, countries negotiated the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, an addition to the UNFCCC treaty which sets binding targets to reduce emissions 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012. The Protocol entered into force in February 2005, which made the Protocol’s emissions targets binding legal commitments for those industrialised countries that ratified it. The Protocol has been ratified by 182 countries, including Australia, of the 192 Parties to the UNFCCC.

With the Kyoto Protocol targets expiring in 2012, the international community has placed growing importance on strengthening the international climate effort beyond 2012. A landmark decision was made in Bali in 2007 known as the 'Bali Roadmap'. In Bali, all Governments agreed to move to negotiations with the very ambitious goal of a new global agreement in Copenhagen in 2009.  They also implicitly recognised that, in addition to emission targets for developed countries, this agreement will have to allow for other types of commitments for developing countries in order to achieve the broadest possible participation. With their decisions on adaptation, deforestation, and technology, Governments addressed key developing country concerns and laid important groundwork for a post-2012 agreement.  

Learn more about international negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention at Climate Change.

To find out more about post-2012 options for international climate change negotiations, visit the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Climate Action around the World

European Union

  • Kyoto Target—Reduce EU-15 emissions 8% below 1990 level by 2008–2012. Individual Kyoto targets for the remaining EU +12 countries ranging from -8 to +6%.
  • EU Target—Unilateral commitment to reduce EU’s GHG emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 30% below if other developed countries agree to comparable reductions and economically advanced developing countries contribute according to their respective capabilities and responsibilities. A mandatory target to increase renewable energy to 20% of the EU’s overall energy mix by 2020, including a minimum of 10% biofuels in overall fuel consumption. The legislation is expected to be passed by 2009 and is currently awaiting approval in the EU Parliament and Council.
  • EU Emissions Trading Scheme—The world’s most far-reaching GHG reduction policy is the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which limits CO2 emissions from 12,000 facilities across Europe. Launched in 2005, the ETS covers electricity and major industrial sectors (including oil, iron and steel, cement, and pulp and paper) that together produce nearly half of the EU’s CO2 emissions.

To learn more about the European Union’s climate plans, visit the EU page at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.


  • Kyoto Target—Reduce emissions 6% below 1990 level by 2008-2012.
  • Japan Target— Long-term goal to reduce emissions by 60-80% of current levels by 2050. Goal to increase solar power generation tenfold by 2020 and forty fold by 2030.
  • Industry Agreements—Agreements with Nippon Keidanren, Japan’s leading industry association, to reduce industrial GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010; and with the Federation of Electric Power Companies, to reduce emissions intensity of the electricity sector about 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.
  • Auto Fuel Economy—Standards to increase fuel economy of new passenger vehicles to 16km/l and for commercial vehicles to 15km/l by 2015.


  • National Climate Change Program- Released in June 2007, the program provides an outline of objectives and key areas of action, including policies and programs that are underway and planned up to 2010, that will address climate change.
  • Fuel Economy Standards—Require all new cars and light trucks to achieve about 10 to 16 kilometres per litre by 2005 (depending on class) and 9 to 19 kilometres per litre by 2008.
  • Energy Intensity Goals—National goals of reducing energy intensity by 20% from 2005 by 2010, and a total of 50% from 2000 to 2020; follows a 68% reduction in energy intensity from 1980 to 2000.Climate Action round
  • Renewable Energy Initiatives—National targets for renewables to provide 16% of primary energy (up from 7% today) and 20% of electricity by 2020, including specific targets for wind power, biomass and hydropower capacity.

To learn more about China’s climate plans, visit the China page at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.


  • National Action Plan on Climate Change- Released in June 2008, it outlines existing and future policies and programs addressing both climate mitigation and adaptation. Identifies eight core 'national missions' running through 2017 and directed ministries to submit detailed implementation plans to the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change by December 2008.
  • Energy Reforms—Privatisation, decentralisation and reduced subsidies in the electric power sector to promote competition among suppliers and improve energy efficiency.
    Renewable Energy—Target to increase installed capacity to more than 10% of total installed capacity by 2012.
  • Energy Efficiency Programs—Established energy efficiency labels for appliances, conducted mandatory energy audits of large energy-consuming industries, developed demand side management programs, and established benchmarks for industrial energy use.

To learn more about India’s climate plans, visit the India page at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

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