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The emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere is causing increasing climate changes which are hazardous for the entire planet. The climate change economy consists of economic instruments which can be used to fight climate change and to limit its effects on societies. The economic policies aimed at fighting climate change focus on two types of actions : policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and policies to adapt our societies to climate change. If the climate change which will occur during the next two or three decades cannot be prevented, adopting measures aimed at reducing GHG emissions and at improving our ability to adapt, whilst minimising costs, is essential.
Reduction policies based on regulation and market
According to scientists on the French Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the stabilisation of CO2 atmospheric concentrations at between 450 and 550ppm (parts per million) between now and 2050 should limit the negative impacts of climate change. In order to limit the rise in the global average temperature to below 2°C compared with the level of the preindustrial era, industrialised countries must cut their emissions by 25%-40% between now and 2020 and by 80%-95% between now and 2050.
The international community has created a framework for the reduction of GHG emissions which constrains the largest GHG emitters and organises mechanisms for the trading of emission credits, ensuring the distribution of reduction efforts at the lowest economic cost. CO2 now has a price at the international level, which is a basic incentive to change the behaviour of public and private economic players and is preparation for future regulations. A tool for use by complex regulations, this emerging market is essential in order to make the reduction of GHG emissions effective.
The impact of each tonne of carbon on global warming is the same regardless of its origin. It does not matter if it is the USA, the EU, Russia or any other Annex 1 country which reduces its emissions. It is the total volume of emissions which is important. This principle allows for a global approach to the reduction of greenhouse gases : emission caps for countries, emission quotas and credit trading systems to ensure the distribution of the effort at the lowest economic cost.
Large political steps
These initiatives emerged more than 15 years ago, at the launch of the international climate negotiations at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and then its coming into force in 2005, accelerated international negotiations.
The next decisive event is the international conference set to take place in Copenhagen in December 2009. The participating countries will define the climate change orientations and actions for the post-2012 period.
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