Is it time to give the U.N. a breather on climate?

The battle to define what the limited “Copenhagen Accord” on climate change that President Obama helped broker really means is already raging on Capitol Hill.

Off the Hill, Harvard economist Robert Stavins – who has written widely on climate and attended the U.N. Copenhagen summit – weighed in with a detailed post-mortem Sunday.

One takeaway: 

Maybe it’s time to give the U.N. process a breather. Stavins says perhaps the next round of talks should be under the auspices of another body, like the Major Economies Forum on climate.

“Given the necessity of achieving consensus (that is, unanimity) in United Nations processes and the open hostility of a small set of nations, bilateral and multilateral discussions, including via the MEF, could be an increasingly attractive route, at least over the short term,” he writes.

Another takeaway: 

He reminds readers that the summit’s hoped-for outcome had already been downgraded from a complete, binding international agreement to a political accord. Heads of state, bowing to the obvious, made that decision well before the conference that ended Saturday.

Stavins says the best goal for Copenhagen was laying a “sound foundation” for meaningful long-term global action. “That has essentially been accomplished with the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ despite its flaws and despite overt challenges from five of some 193 countries represented (Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Venezuela),” he writes.

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