The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements is supporting more than twenty-seven research projects from leading thinkers around the world, including from Europe, China, Japan, India, Australia, and the United States. These projects range in topic from complete architectures to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, to proposed solutions to specific problems climate negotiators face, such as facilitating technology transfer to developing countries, preventing deforestation, and enforcing a global climate agreement.
The research papers will go live on our website as they are received by the Project, and announcements will be sent out via email.
The authors compare the targets and actions to which countries have committed under the Copenhagen Accord. The Accord allows participating countries to express their commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in a variety of ways—most broadly, through economy-wide quantified emissions targets for developed countries and mitigation "actions" by developing countries. These are difficult to compare. However, even mitigation commitments that look similar can require very different levels of effort in different countries, and commitments that produce similar economic outcomes can look inequitable. These variations in effort and equity depend on historical patterns of energy use, marginal costs of greenhouse-gas abatement, choice of base year, methods for determining "business as usual" projections, and other factors.
Different international regimes are built from legal instruments that vary in terms of whether they are multilateral or bilateral. We investigate the reasons for such variation. The choice between multilateralism and bilateralism is a function of the trade-off between each instrument's relative flaw-multilateralism is wasteful in incentives whereas bilateralism multiplies transaction costs. We illustrate some of these propositions by looking at four regimes: foreign direct investment, human rights, climate change, and international trade.
There is no integrated, comprehensive regime governing efforts to limit the extent of climate change. Instead, there is a regime complex: a loosely coupled set of specific regimes. We describe the regime complex for climate change and seek to explain it, using functional, strategic, and organizational arguments. It is likely that such a regime complex will persist: efforts to build an effective, legitimate, and adaptable comprehensive regime are unlikely to succeed. Building on this analysis, we argue that a climate change regime complex, if it meets specified criteria, has advantages over any politically feasible comprehensive regime, particularly with respect to adaptability and flexibility. These characteristics are particularly important in an environment of high uncertainty, such as in the case of climate change where the most demanding international commitments are interdependent yet governments vary widely in their interest and ability to implement such commitments.
By Kelly Sims Gallagher, Senior Associate, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group
A "deal" is proposed in this paper, whereby all major-emitting countries, including the United States and China, agree to reduce emissions through implementation of significant, mutually agreeable, domestic emission-reduction policies. To resolve the competitiveness and equity concerns, a proposed Carbon Mitigation Fund would be created. This proposed fund is contrasted with other existing and proposed mitigation funds and finance mechanisms.
The São Paulo Proposal is designed to create a stable, long-term, universal regime based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Such a regime is required to encourage the technological change and structural shifts necessary to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations. Richer countries adopt binding targets that become more stringent over time. Financial and institutional provisions to enhance developing country implementation of mitigation and adaptation actions are strengthened.
"Global Climate Policy Architecture and Political Feasibility: Specific Formulas and Emission Targets to Attain 460 PPM CO2 Concentrations"
This paper offers a framework of formulas that produce precise numerical targets for emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in all regions of the world in all decades of this century. The formulas are based on pragmatic judgments about what is possible politically. The reason for this approach is the authors' belief that many of the usual science-based, ethics-based, and economics-based paths are not politically viable. It is not credible that successor governments will be able to abide by the commitments that today’s leaders make, if those commitments would be costly.
By Sheila M. Olmstead, Former Research Fellow, Environment and Natural Resources Program, 2001–2002 and Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government; Member of the Board; Director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
The major features of a post-2012 international global climate policy architecture are described with three essential elements: a means to ensure that key industrialized and developing nations are involved in differentiated but meaningful ways; an emphasis on an extended time path of targets; and inclusion of flexible market-based policy instruments to keep costs down and facilitate international equity. This architecture is consistent with fundamental aspects of the science, economics, and politics of global climate change; addresses specific shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol; and builds upon the foundation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
By Bard Harstad
This paper provides a novel dynamic model of private provision of public goods. The agents can also invest in cost-reducing technologies but, nevertheless, the Markov-Perfect Equilibrium (MPE) is unique and the analysis tractable. The non-cooperative outcome is compared to scenarios where the agents can contract on contributions investment), and the optimal contract is derived.
While the model fits a variety of contexts, the policy implications for climate agree- ments are particularly important. Environmental agreements (e.g. the Kyoto protocol) are typically specifying emissions but not investments in technology, since such e¤orts would be hard to verify. They often have a limited time horizon and future commitments remain to be negotiated.
This paper explores the interactions of international policy architecture and technology availability on the limitation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 500 ppm in the year 2095. We find that technology is even more important to reducing the costs of emissions mitigation when international policy structures deviate from immediate and full participation. We also find that the international diffusion of climate technology may be as or more important to domestic mitigation cost containment as domestic technology diffusion. We observe that near-term carbon prices reflect in a very direct way expectations about technology a half century and more into the future. We find that the policy architecture has a relatively modest effect on global emissions limitation pathways when compared with the impact of technology availability and observe that more rapid technology improvements reduce the relative influence of the policy architecture. Finally, we consider the implications combining CO2 capture and storage technology with bioenergy production, namely electricity production with negative carbon emissions.
Despite an enormous amount of work done to persuade the world of the dangers of climate change and the need for quick corrective action, there is little progress toward a global compact for managing climate change. In fact, there are some basic differences of perspectives on climate change policies between developed and developing countries which may bedevil future global agreements on climate change for quite some time. Among the reasons for these differences are the issues of historical responsibility for carbon emission by the developed countries, the need for lifestyle changes in both the developed and developing countries, suspicion in the developing countries about the motives of developed countries and too much focus of current discussions on the very long-term and global effects of climate change.