Climate Change – A Sustainable Development Problem

1.1 Actions at international level

At international level, many actions are taken to extend the knowledge and awareness on the importance of this matter. AS an example, the most recent action with this aim, guided by the United Nations, was the 14th session of the CSD (Commission on Sustainable Development) concluded on 12 May 2006. As the first year of the second implementation cycle, CSD-14 focused on progress in the following areas: Energy for Sustainable Development; Industrial Development; Air pollution/ Atmosphere; and Climate Change. This year, the 15th session of the CSD will be held between 30 April and 11 May 2007, at UN Headquarters in New York. This is the second, or policy year of the second implementation cycle, during which the Commission will continue its focus on the same areas like the precedent.


I chose to study climate change problem because here, in Romania, this winter  we have felt more than ever the implications of this problem on our own skin.. It has been  quite an unusual winter: there have been towns, like my own, where one did not see a snowfall at all, compared to what was like before. That indeed made me sad and, as a consequence, I want to know much more of the coming problems.
The U.N. elaborated a convention framework for addressing all aspects of climate change. The Earth’s climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities. The atmospheric concentrations of key anthropogenic greenhouse gases (i.e. carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and tropospheric ozone (O3) reached their highest recorded levels in the 1990s, primarily due to the combustion of fossil fuels, agriculture, and land use changes. Commission will, at its fifteenth session in 2007, take policy decisions on practical measures and options to expedite implementation in the selected cluster of issues.

Agenda 21, which addresses climate change under its Chapter 9 (Protection of the atmosphere), recognizes that activities that may be undertaken in pursuit of the objectives defined therein should be coordinated with social and economic development in an integrated manner with a view to avoiding adverse impacts on the latter, taking into full account the legitimate priority needs of developing countries for the achievement of sustained economic growth and the eradication of poverty. Both Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPoI) assert that the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the key instrument for addressing climate change. The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol provided renewed optimism for the effectiveness of a multilateral approach to tackle climate change.

Climate change impacts can sabotage the efforts to achieve the goals of sustainable development, in particular by augmenting poverty in developing countries, especially the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States and thus delaying the achievement of The Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, development paths and production and consumption patterns have various impacts on the climate system. Climate change is being increasingly considered in the broader context of sustainable development, for instance through the integration of climate policies into national development planning and national sustainable development strategies.

Another action at international level had taken place in Madrid, on the 15th of  April 2003. The First International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism was held successfully in Djerba, Tunisia. More than 150 participants from 42 countries and six international organizations gathered at this event that was convened by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), upon the kind invitation of the Government of Tunisia.
The Conference especially focused on climate change related impacts on water resources, at coastal and island destinations, as well as mountain areas. A specific session was also dedicated to policy and mitigation issues.

As a major result of the Conference, the Djerba Declaration on Climate Change and Tourism was prepared through consultation with the participants. The Declaration recognizes that climate change impacts are already occurring at some tourism destinations and the effects are expected to spread in the future and, consequently, there is a need for adaptation and mitigation measures, among others. It includes a series of recommendations for international organizations, government and private sector agencies for collaborative actions at the international, national and local destination levels.

Recently, another event in the same area of interest has taken place, organized by The Soil Association. The Conference, “One Planet Agriculture – preparing for a post-peak oil food and farming future’” (25 -27 January), addressed the real threats of peak oil and climate change, the urgent need to create climate-friendly food and farming systems, and the crucial role for grassroots, community action.

1.2 North and South – two different visions

    No matter how many actions there will be at international level, I think that the problem still requiring solution remains the differences between developed and developing countries, between North and South, as illustrated by in the next cartoon.

“But Dad you always played on it, why can’t we?” SOURCE:

Unfortunately, this is the question that many of the developing countries ask today: when will their turn finally come and when will they get the chance to develop on industrial level. I think the core reason for pollution is that industrial technologies used by the developing countries are provided by the developed countries, when they do not need these worn technologies anymore and after they have changed them with new technologies, not-polluted.

Anyway, it is possible to evaluate various options in the climate change debate in at least two different forms: how they affect the aggregate capital endowment; and how they affect the resilience of the system to respond and adapt to change. Both assessments require a joint examination of ecological and social systems. We argue that the latter approach is more practical and more equitable. It completely transforms the question. Instead of weighing the present generation’s good against that of the future generation, it asks how to build capacity for protection and resistance.

To use a metaphor from another literature, the entire proposed response to climate change can be viewed as a global program of structural adjustment. It is likely to suffer from the same problems that plagued traditional structural adjustment programs in Southern countries [Tariq Banuri – Sustainable development and climate change, Policy Matters, Newsletter of the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP-Commission on Environmental Economic and Social Policy)]. These programs were criticized for being inequitable, socially regressive, and harmful towards human development. If we can use some of the lessons from the earlier literature, we might be able to avoid its worst excesses.

1.3 Romania and the climate change

Romania has participated and taken a range of actions in this field. For example, Romania adopted the National Climate Change Strategy, as its first steps towards a targeted and coordinated national effort to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and to deal with the climate change impacts that are to be expected. The focus of Romania’s approach to climate change is on the future requirements resulting from the country’s very recent membership to the EU (including participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme) as well as from international commitments under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC

The third Conference of the Parties held in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, was a further step in addressing climate change from a global perspective. The emerging scientific evidences had indicated the necessity for more stringent measures for GHG mitigation. Parties to the Convention were asked to go beyond stabilizing their GHG emissions (as agreed in UNFCCC) and take on a legally binding commitment to limiting or reducing their GHG emissions by a negotiated share in the first commitment period (2008-2012). Romania signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1999 and ratified it in January 2001 by Law 3/2001 being the first UNFCCC Annex I Party to do so. The target adopted by Romania is an 8% reduction compared to the base year 1989.
The Kyoto Protocol became legally binding on 16 February 20056.
The Protocol also establishes three flexible mechanisms known as Joint Implementation (JI), the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and International Emissions Trading (IET). Parties cut the cost of meeting their emissions targets by taking advantage of opportunities abroad to reduce emissions or increase GHG removals at lower cost than at home. They also provide the opportunity for host countries to secure financing for GHG emissions reduction projects.

Figure 1 show the total GHG emissions in Romania in the period 1989-2002 compared to the target under the Kyoto Protocol.

Figure 1

The total net GHG emissions in CO2 equivalent in the period 1989-2002

Source: “National Inventory Report 1989-2002”, Ministry of Environment and Water Management and National Research and Development Institute for Environmental Protection-ICIM Bucharest, 2004

The total net GHG emissions decreased by about 50 % in 2002 compared to the reference year 1989. The decrease was mainly due to a strong decline in industrial production and the restructuring of the economy in the transition to a market economy. Finally, the commissioning of the first reactor at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant in 1996 had a significant impact on GHG emissions.

In the problem of global climate change, Romania has received assistance through USAID’s, in the energy sector. Romania has made great advances in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially through new policies and regulatory structures. Complemented by activities in the agriculture and water sectors, overall management and environmental standards are continuously being improved.

Reducing the risks posed by climate change is an important element of USAID’s assistance provided to Romania through energy and environment programs. The energy sector in Romania accounts for the largest contribution of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, under USAID/Romania’s energy program, work has been done to improve the efficiency of energy production, distribution, and utilization.

Energy Sector Initiatives.

USAID supports many activities that address the restructuring, commercialization, and privatization of the power sector, as well as support for the establishment of independent energy regulatory authorities in Romania. These pursuits most directly affect the Romanian Regulatory Agency in the Energy Sector (ANRE), the Romanian Regulatory Agency for the Gas Sector, and several other power agencies. Commercialization and opening of the power generation market is further supported through the Regional Utility Partnership program, which supports information exchange, workshops, and progress toward efficient operation and sustainability. The technical assistance and training provided through these programs encourage the Romanian power sector to move toward efficient operation, restructuring, and commercialization.

In future, many actions are programmed to take place in Romania. One af them will be the 12-s Annual Conference  Energy – Cites, will take place at  Brasov (RO) between 25-27 April 2007,  one among the first European events organized in our country since its accession to the European Union. The conference is organized in collaboration with the local municipality and the local Agency for Energy Management.

Details about the author:

Gina Negrea, PhD at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, section of Global Economy, working this year for her thesis on “North-South Cooperation in the context of the globalization tendencies in international economy.” Working as universitary assistant for the discipline Global Economics at Constantin Brancoveanu University, Pitesti.

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