Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (continued)
By Erik Haites
An effective international climate agreement poses formidable challenges. Existing agreements, naturally, have some good features. Further improvements are being discussed in the current negotiations. But the cost and uncertainty associated with regular renegotiation of commitments is not being addressed. The São Paulo Proposal suggests mechanisms that would avoid the need for regular renegotiation of commitments and suggests other ways to make international climate agreements more effective.
December 18, 2009
Parties could break the stalemate around hard targets and ensure the comparability of efforts by supplementing commitments on emissions with commitments for price signals on carbon. Under our proposal, all major parties would need to show at least a minimum level of effort regardless of whether they achieve their emissions target, and they would be allowed to exceed their target if they were unable to achieve it in spite of undertaking a high level of effort.
December 2, 2009
Climate finance is fundamental to curbing anthropogenic climate change. Compared, however, to the negotiations over emissions reduction timetables, commitments, and architectures, climate finance issues have received only limited and belated attention. Assuring delivery and appropriate use of the financial resources needed to achieve emissions reductions and secure adaptation to climate change, particularly in developing countries, is as vital as agreement on emission caps. Yet, a comprehensive framework on financing for mitigation and adaptation is not in sight. Developed and developing countries cannot agree on even the fundamentals of what should be included (e.g. should private finance through carbon markets be included?), let alone the level and terms of financing commitments, regulatory and other mechanisms, or governance structures.
November 20, 2009
International climate negotiations are becoming increasingly focused on suites of emissions-cutting policies and measures, rather than solely on traditional targets and timetables, particularly for developing countries. This approach raises at least two important challenges for negotiators and policymakers. First, how can negotiators judge whether states' proposed policies and measures are commensurate with ambitious global goals for controlling emissions? Second, how can policymakers evaluate whether climate policies and measures (in both developed and developing countries) are succeeding and maximize the odds that countries will actually deliver needed emissions cuts? Answering both questions is essential to reconciling a bottom-up approach to climate change mitigation with top-down need for strong global emissions cuts.
October 23, 2009
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
Our proposal for a post-2012 international global climate policy agreement contains three essential elements: meaningful involvement by key industrialized and developing nations; an emphasis on an extended time path of targets; and inclusion of market-based policy instruments. This architecture is consistent with fundamental aspects of the science, economics, and politics of global climate change.
October 19, 2009
By Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government; Member of the Board; Director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
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.
September 2, 2009
This brief considers the technology negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) within the wider context of low-carbon energy technology. In doing so, it focuses on how technology issues can be effectively embedded within a potential agreement at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen. The paper asserts that the negotiations must be conducted with cognizance of national decision-making processes and competing priorities. It puts forth a series of framing topics in order to more explicitly explore the large technology "ecosystem". It concludes that the most appropriate area for international cooperation on technology under the UNFCCC lies in the direct provision of human and institutional capacity building with a focus on the least developed countries.
August 27, 2009
By Bard Harstad
A climate treaty is characterized by a large number of parameters: What should the abatement or emission levels be? How should the burden to abate be distributed across countries? What should the time profile for the emission levels be? Should there be issue linkages with other policy areas? Should there be any side transfers between some countries and, if so, what should the transfers be? This richness in parameters implies that there is a lot to decide and negotiate before the final climate treaty is ready.
Moreover, there is great uncertainty regarding the future costs and benefits of abatement. Today, it is not yet known how much abatement will be desirable in the future. This means that any climate treaty must be updated, or renegotiated, quite frequently in the coming years. The realized climate policies depend on future international negotiations—and the rules governing these.
August 5, 2009
An effective policy approach to climate change would be a global emission trading system. Opinions differ, however, as to what approach should be pursued when fostering a global emissions trading system. Many argue in favor of linking various national and regional emission trading systems as a possible way forward. However, an alternative method, which involves developing a new system from the ground up, could prove more advantageous. Under an Upstream Global Emission Trading System (UGETS), all nations would use an upstream emissions trading system that would result in far fewer monitoring points than a downstream system. A nation would only need to keep track of domestic shipments and imports of fossil fuels.