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Copyright (c) 2004 The Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle, PA
Penn State Environmental Law Review

INTRODUCTION: The International Legal Framework for Addressing Climate Change

Winter, 2004

12 Penn St. Envtl. L. Rev. 135


John H. Knox*


This article describes the international legal framework for addressing climate change: specifically, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol to it, and the agreements reached after Kyoto. It also briefly describes the Bush Administration policy toward climate change.

I. The Framework Convention on Climate Change
In the mid-1980s, scientists began to warn that increasing emissions of greenhouse gases would, or at least could, cause the climate to warm. In response, governments established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and charged it with assessing the magnitude, timing, and possible impact of climate change. In 1990, the IPCC published its first assessment, which concluded that if countries continued along their current path, the average temperature of the planet would rise by an average of 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade. At the same time, governments began to consider how to respond to climate change. Political support grew rapidly for some type of international agreement.

In May 1989, the U.S. government announced that it would support negotiation of a "framework convention" on climate change. 1 In December 1989, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on states "to prepare as a matter of urgency a framework convention on climate," and in December 1990, after the IPCC report, the General Assembly established an inter-governmental negotiation aimed at drafting what became known as the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The convention was negotiated in 1991 and 1992, and was signed in 1992 as part of the package ...
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