Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Climate change meetings look towards next steps

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 24, 2007

Climate change will probably be in the news quite a bit over the next few days as several high-level meetings take place:

[T]he United Nations holds Monday what may be the largest high-level international meeting ever on climate change.

The conference, called by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, kicks off what many experts and officials say will be the high week of a turning-point year in the global political response to the challenge of a warming planet.

More than 80 heads of state or government are expected among the representatives of better than 150 countries attending the UN session. Then on Thursday, President Bush will convene at the White House a gathering of leaders from the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases.

In addition, the Clinton Global Initiative will host a forum in New York Wednesday, drawing business and international political leaders to promote grass-roots responses to global warming.

Much discussion will focus around the issue of what will replace the Kyoto Protocol: will there be another set of reduction commitments or will the next agreement use voluntary measure? What will be the balance between action by developed and developing countries?

What UN experts hope for – and what Ban wants coming out of Monday’s meeting – is fresh momentum for action at the UN climate-change conference set for Bali, Indonesia, in December. The Bali conference will take up the crucial question of what kind of agreement should replace the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which expires in 2012. …
Many eyes will be focused on this week’s White House meeting to gauge just how committed the United States is to action – and what kind of action the Bush administration will accept. Some experts worry that the administration will stick to a preference for voluntary goals in emissions cuts rather than reduction commitments, or that the Washington meeting signals a willingness on the part of the US to go outside the UN framework for addressing climate change.

Another potential stumbling block is the continuing disagreement between industrialized and developing countries over who should make the most substantial commitments to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. It was the exclusion of developing countries from the Kyoto Protocol that in part led Bush to reject the agreement.

Major developing powers like China, India, and Brazil are still wary of any accord that would place the same burden on them as on developed economies, which they say have much higher per capita emission rates.

But these developing countries are also beginning to signal a seriousness about global warming and to address pollution and sustainable-development issues on their own, leading some experts to find hope that the divide can be narrowed.

One Response to “Climate change meetings look towards next steps”

  1. Rich Sweeney said

    Unfortunately, as the IHT reported this morning, President Bush will be effectively undercutting this week’s meetings by not attending in NY and then hosting his own meeting on climate change in Washington. Rather than a global discussion, his meeting will only involve the 15 largest emitters of carbon. Also, comments from the President’s deputy national security adviser seem to suggest that Bush’s plan will involve setting a common stated goal of reducing carbon, but no actual incentives or mandates to do so. Put in Daniel’s terms, Bush wants to rely on “asking nicely”. Let the free riding and collective inaction begin.

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