3. Why has it been so difficult to take climate action?

Only industrialized countries were required to reduce GHG emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Although some industrialized countries actually met the emission reduction targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, these efforts were offset by increasing emissions by most countries, industrialized and developing.


In addition, political and sectoral interests have contributed to delay collective efforts to address climate change. The changes required to take decisive climate action may have been perceived by many as incompatible with economic development. Some incorrectly believe that economic development and growth can only be achieved in the business-as-usual way –by burning coal, oil and gas. The costs of implementing actions to reduce GHG emissions were considered as prohibitive compared to the costs of continuing to use fossil fuels. Also, pressure from sectors benefiting from the use of fossil fuels has also halted climate action.


As a result, and despite overwhelming scientific evidence, climate action has been delayed and global GHG emissions have continued to steadily increase –from 38 Gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (GtCO2-eq: unit to measure all GHGs combined) in 1990 to 49.5 GtCO2-eq in 2010[1]. Currently, annual global GHG emissions are 54 GtCO2-eq[2].





[1] IPCC, AR5, Working Group (WG) III, Chapter 1 (2014)

[2] UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2014 (2014) and Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR). European Commission, Joint Research Centre/PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency