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"A Portfolio of Domestic Commitments: Implementing Common but Differentiated Responsibilities"

18 Mar 2008: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's press conference is telecast on a mall screen in Beijing. Rich countries must commit to deeper cuts in GHG emissions if China and India are to sign an accord to curb climate change, a UN official said 11 Sep 2009.
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"A Portfolio of Domestic Commitments: Implementing Common but Differentiated Responsibilities"

Policy Brief, Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

October 19, 2009

Author: Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government; Member of the Board; Director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

Viewpoints

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

 

ABSTRACT

International negotiations are focused on developing a climate policy framework for the post-2012 period, when the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period will have ended. In addition to negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), other intergovernmental outlets, including the G20 and the Major Economies Forum, are trying to reach common ground among the world's major emitters of greenhouse gases. To date, these efforts have not produced a politically, economically, and environmentally viable structure for a future climate agreement.

An effective, but more flexible and politically palatable approach could be an international agreement on a "portfolio of domestic commitments." Under such an agreement, nations would agree to honor commitments to greenhouse gas emission reductions laid out in their own domestic laws and regulations. A portfolio of commitments may emerge from a global meeting such as the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, or a smaller number of major economies could negotiate an agreement among themselves, and then invite other countries to join.

Despite the obvious differences between such a system and the conventional "targets and timetables" in the Kyoto Protocol, negotiators should not dismiss this new approach out of hand. There are several ways to construct a portfolio of domestic commitments, and negotiators have numerous levers available to tailor an agreement to meet their political, economic, and environmental goals. This Viewpoint outlines some basic features of a portfolio approach, highlights a few major issues and concerns, and discusses the potential feasibility of this approach.

 

A shorter version of this Viewpoint appeared in Point Carbon North America on October 23, 2009, and may be downloaded here.

 

Viewpoints present policy proposals, considered opinions, and commentary by distinguished policymakers, leaders from business and non-governmental organizations, and scholars. The Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements does not advocate any specific climate change policy proposals. Statements and views expressed in Viewpoints are solely those of the authors and do not imply endorsement by Harvard University, the Harvard Kennedy School, or the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements.

 

 

For more information about this publication please contact the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements Coordinator at 617-496-8054.

For Academic Citation:

Stavins, Robert N. "A Portfolio of Domestic Commitments: Implementing Common but Differentiated Responsibilities." Policy Brief, Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, October 19, 2009.

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