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Climate Policy

Because waste gases are easily distributed throughout the atmosphere, what one country does within its own borders easily influences others, even if they are on opposite sides of the world. In terms of global impact, few situations have the same universal consequences as atmospheric climate change. Even things like water quality and soil pollution tend to be more local (or regional) than climate change. As a result of this global reach, unprecedented international efforts have been made to bring world governments together to address climate problems.

United Nations

Though the U.N. is not the only form for international policy decisions, it is the most important. As such, the U.N. has taken the lead in climate policy with its decisions being supplemented by more regional bodies like the European Union as well as by private policy consultancy firms.

The United Nations has two major bodies for dealing with climate change. The most visible is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which deals with scientific assessments of climate change the socio-economic impacts projected from them. The second major body is the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The FCCC is a treaty that, though not binding, has helped to bring together countries so that a dialog can occur about what each can and is willing to do regarding climate change. Both the IPCC and FCCC play critical roles in guiding climate policy.


A number of challenges face the world in terms of climate policy. Countries looking to protect economic interests are loathe to undertake measures that redirect resources or stifle industry. This is particularly in emerging economies and in industrialized nations, but the problem is not unique to the industrial world. Third-world nations, who already suffer from crippling economic circumstances, often find it difficult to incorporate new, expensive technology into their plans simply to be 'green'. They further point out that industrial countries are responsible for the majority of climate issues and it is rather unfair to expect developing nations to foot that bill. All of this occurs on the backdrop of doubts about the veracity of the science itself.

Obviously the problems are vast, but the remarkable thing is that climate change has unified the world in a way that no other problem has. While far from perfect, the efforts made in international treaty negotiation have been more successful for climate change than for any other issue. This section explores some of the ways in which climate policy is negotiated and what some of the major achievements have been.