International Agreements on Climate Change: Selected Legal Questions [April 12, 2010] [open pdf - 249KB]
"The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened for signature in 1992 and soon thereafter was ratified by the United States. The UNFCCC does not set greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, and during ratification hearings, the George H.W. Bush Administration represented that any protocol or amendment to the UNFCCC creating binding GHG emissions targets would be submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent. The Kyoto Protocol (the Protocol) to the UNFCCC was intended as a first step towards implementing the UNFCCC. To that end, it sets quantitative emission reduction targets for the high income countries listed in its Annex B. The Protocol's goal is to reduce each parties' overall emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. […] In 2007, the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali adopted a framework for negotiations over the post-2012 climate regime. It established two tracks for negotiation: (1) a track by which Kyoto Protocol parties would pursue an amendment to the Protocol for a 'second round' of emission targets for its Annex B parties, and (2) a track by which UNFCCC parties would set GHG mitigation targets or actions for all parties. […] The labels 'convention,' 'protocol,' and 'accord' are not clear indicators of whether these three climate change agreements are binding internationally and/or domestically. Under international law, an agreement is considered binding only if it conveys the intention of its parties to create legally binding relationships and has entered into force. However, some have suggested that enforceability, rather than intentions, should govern whether an agreement is 'legally binding.'"
CRS Report for Congress, R41175
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