Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Proposals on climate change policy outside of the UNFCCC process

On Monday morning, after Garth finally arrived in Cancun and registered for the conference, he and I attended the following side event.
Global Proposals on Climate Change outside the UNFCCC Process- EU Pavilion
Mr. Owen Ryan – Environment Ministry, Ireland
Description: Ireland, in collaboration with UNEP has initiated a project to examine international policy frameworks to address climate change, including a number of global proposals that have been developed outside the UNFCCC process. The project will be conducted by the World Research Institute.
We then worked in conjunction to analyze the vast amount of information that was presented to us to interpret what we had learned about the most effective way to combat climate change. We worked together to complete the following comments:
One of the primary subjects covered by the panel was how to incorporate a review mechanism into a legally binding agreement regarding climate policy. Crucial to the success of any agreement/treaty established, review mechanisms essentially are programs that see the terms (negotiated within an agreement) are met for each participating country, and have mobilized from the national to regional/local level. The panel presented concise criteria for which an ideal review mechanism should base itself on including: equity, ambition, effective implementation, inclusiveness to help foster participation, and financial viability (cost implications). Equity must be recognized as an essential criterion, as any effective proposal for a legally binding agreement must take into account the fact that some terms will have to differentiate for individual countries. Incorporating distinctions between the smaller countries from the larger ones, we must also recognize that we need equitable distribution of carbon space. Carbon space might not be a term everyone knows about, but essentially it is the space in the atmosphere that GHG’s are taking up. Precedent emissions of CO2 and other GHG’s from developed countries have taken up much of that space. Currently, developing countries are fighting for their right to that space as well, understandably. Regarding developing countries, proposals for legally binding agreements must also incorporate numerous variables such as economic growth and potential. Member of the panel, Jake Werksman, international lawyer specializing in international environmental and economic law, compared the effectiveness of an agreement using the Kyoto and Montreal Protocol’s as an example. He mentioned that what helped the Montreal Protocol to have greater success than that of Kyoto was the “graduation mechanism” it created. Targets for reducing CFC”s were established clearly, cohesively, and produced an effective incentive for developing countries; those who met the targets acquired a more “developed” status. This example is easily arguable, however, as CO2 emissions reductions are nowhere near as practical or “do-able” as those of CFC’s. So, why exactly do we want a legally binding agreement, and does the legal form of the agreement really matter? As seen evident by the Kyoto Protocol, which lacks any review mechanism whatsoever, it matters a whole lot; we want legal status on an agreement regarding climate change policy as assurance that the countries will do what they say they will. Unfortunately, any form of a legal agreement won’t be procured any time soon, at least not at COP 16. Until major forces like the U.S., the EU, and China set the example for the rest of the world and set forth ambitious plans for reducing emissions, there is little that can be done in the meantime.

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