Screw Copenhagen; The Way Forward on Climate

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 5/27/2011 12:01:00 AM
Let's face hard reality here: as the ill-fated Copenhagen 2009 climate summit indicated, we are even father away from a binding, multilateral climate deal as we are from completing the WTO Doha Development Round. Too many diverging interests, too few common interests, and climate change deniers everywhere was never going to be a recipe for a deal.

Just this Wednesday, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Global Governance 2020--a group of international researchers who are trying to figure out where we go from the Copenhagen debacle. Their brief, to-the-point report is available online from their website. Alike the earlier article by Robert Falkner et al. that I featured on this blog sometime ago, they too are pessimistic about a comprehensive agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, it may be more feasible to come up with a range of smaller agreements that particular parties are interested in. For this approach, it is hoped that a series of more manageable, more readily negotiable deals will add up to more than a grand deal shot through with weasel words, opt-outs and escape clauses.

Global Governance 2020 sees virtue in bottom-up action as it envisions a number of scenarios. In the unlikely event of a successor to Koyoto coming to fruition in the immediate future, we may be better off placing our bets on a "coalition of the ambitious" driving the agenda forward. The entire report is available online for your consideration. What follows are the most likely scenarios from the executive summary:
A global agreement on binding emissions reductions is unlikely, but progress against climate change can still be made through a patchwork of initiatives and commitments by forward-thinking countries, sub national governments, international organizations businesses, and civil society. That is the conclusion of a working group of experts from China, Germany and the United States. As part of the Global Governance 2020 program, the group has been convened in the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference in late 2009 by the Global Public Policy Institute and its partners, the Hertie School of Governance, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Fudan University, the Brookings Institution, and Princeton University.

The Working Group represented a diverse, carefully selected collection of individuals who work on climate change in academic, industrial, and governmental capacities. Over the course of a year, the Working Group applied scenario planning methodology to envision different ways the world might approach the challenge of climate change over the next decade. This Executive Summary outlines the three scenarios envisioned by the Working Group, as well as the insights and policy recommendations that derive from them.

Three Possible Directions for Climate Governance

Our scenario analysis produced three possible outcomes for climate governance in 2020. Scenario 1, “Kyoto 2.0,” results from a growing international consensus on the necessity of deep emission cuts based on a series of global treaties. The result is a comprehensive, UN-led solution to climate change and the subsequent establishment of low-carbon economies around the world. Given the latest developments in Copenhagen and the results of CancĂșn, this scenario is highly unlikely to become reality.

Scenario 2, “Stalemate,” presents climate governance in ruins. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process unravels with short-term thinking trumping long-term policy making. Neither the United States, China, Europe, nor developing countries see themselves in a position to take the lead in combating climate change.

Scenario 3, “Patchwork governance,” witnesses a stalled UNFCCC process but also the initiation of a UN-plus process. A broad coalition of ambitious and pragmatic countries, regions, cities, companies, media, non-governmental organizations, and thought leaders contributes to the emergence of a complex, multilayered governance landscape. If scenario 1 cannot be achieved, this is the second best option.

We identify two windows of opportunity in which the decisions of key actors can shift climate governance from one scenario to another. In the next two years, the most important factor is the behavior of the world’s two largest emitters, China and the United States. Aggressive climate policies in either or both countries would serve as a catalyst for global action, sending a strong signal to industry and driving forward the multilateral process. Conversely, the failure of either nation to take aggressive steps to reduce emissions over the next few years will make it impossible to develop an effective global treaty to limit emissions before 2020.

In the latter case, which we consider most likely, our analysis highlights a second window of opportunity, closing around 2013/14, during which a multilayered governance network beyond the UN could emerge with sufficient support from ambitious governments, sub-national actors, industry groups, and civil society. We imagine that this patchwork scenario could create the conditions for an eventual rebirth of the global treaty process, but consider this unlikely before 2020. This figure displays the possible scenarios and decision points.
Like them, I foresee a world of scenario 3. This may not be an entirely negative thing given the current state of affairs in the arena of international negotiations.