Archive for the ‘Kyoto Protocal’ Category

So, what happened at Copenhagen?

December 23rd, 2009 No comments

Briefly, Obama succeeded in getting China and India to agree that they need not simply to improve efficiency as they grow, but to make verifiable cuts in emissions.

This is a major accomplishment, as it addresses the chief reason why Clinton and Bush refused to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate. It also clearly indicates that these and other developing nations view the climate threat very seriously, and that Obama has done an effective job in gaining the trust and confidence of their leaders.

As this provides assurance that any action by the US will be reciprocated to some degree by China and others, and thus may actually be meaningful rather than simply driving jobs from our economy to theirs, this may be the hand-writing on the wall for the passage of climate legislation by Congress (though the acrimony over health care, economic woes and the mid-term elections may weigh in the opposition direction).

But by coming in on the penuitimate day, working directly with China, India, South Africa and Brazil, and then leaving behind a bare-bones “Accord” that didn`t fit into the prior negotiation framework, Obama ruffled the feathers of smaller nations, and left poorer and island nations (which wanted to see firm mitigation and funding commitments) and indigenous groups (which hoped to be acknowledge as the recipients of offsets funnding that would help them preserve their forests) very upset.

Further, logistics for thousands of accredited NGOs and other observers who had planned side events were apparently very screwed up, so many people were apparently locked out in the cold for a day or two and are now steaming.

The result will no doubt be revitailzed pressure on political leaders over the coming year, in preparation for a climate summit in Mexico City in 2010.

Robert Stavins, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, has here the most useful and readable summary that I`ve seen.

I note that in September, Stavins participated in a debate with AEI`s Steven Hayward in the Wall Street Journal on the question of whether countries cut carbon emissions without hurting economic growth. Stavins provides links to the discussions here.