With the upcoming negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bali rising to the forefront of global discussions in recent weeks, the world will anticipate a promising outcome for a post-2012 international climate agreement. The conference gets underway on Monday, December 3rd.
The negotiations will focus on outlining a road map for the next two years of the larger negotiation process, which will lead to the next stage of a post-2012 international climate agreement. While the details of the process are important, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture.
There are two views of this picture. The one laid out by the Bush Administration relies on individual countries to make voluntary pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A second, more widely accepted international view is that the process requires a combination of binding commitments from industrialized nations, along with a package of incentives to encourage key developing countries to go beyond the impressive unilateral GHG reduction efforts they have already put into action.
The test in Bali will be how well the process can produce an international agreement along the lines of the broader vision that joins nations together to go beyond lowest common denominator pledges, and at the same time build a structure that creates mutual incentives for an even greater level of global GHG reductions.
The European Union's High-Level Group meeting for Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment in Brussels met November 27th (between industry, NGOs and European governments). The discussions highlighted that providing incentives and encouraging developing country goals within a framework of cooperation across the key industrialized sectors is a very promising path toward making these greater global carbon reductions. This reduces the fears of international competing industries and moves toward the proverbial level playing field.
Coupling that with expanded funding to developing countries for technological innovation, support for sustainable development policies, reducing deforestation and assistance with adapting to the serious effects of climate change will produce a promising framework for all nations to step up together to a higher level of joint effort.
To fulfill this vision, we will also need one piece of the puzzle that is not likely to come out of Bali: a binding commitment by the U.S. to carry its fair share of the global burden. Promising developments in the U.S. Congress and signs of activity from the Bush Administration suggest that the current pace may accelerate after a new president comes into office.
A U.S. commitment needs to be at least as strong as what would be required in America's Climate Security Act legislation, Senate bill S.2191. Although the U.S. has failed to make binding commitments, if solutions can combine S.2191's reduction targets with the EU's proposed reductions, comparable economic efforts by other industrialized nations, plus voluntary, no-lose sector-based efforts by developing countries, the world can stay on a reasonable track to meet climate protection goals.
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