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David Hone
Climate Change Adviser, Shell Group

David Hone

David Hone is the climate change adviser for the Shell Group and vice chairman of the International Emissions Trading Association. He also works closely with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. ALL POSTS

Trust, but verify

Q: Is the Copenhagen Accord a real deal? Are there any beneficiaries of this decision? What responsibilities do nations have going forward?

The Copenhagen Accord is neither a continuation of the status quo or a new deal, but a hybrid of the two. Whilst it maintains the core elements of the Kyoto Protocol, it also introduces the United States into the international framework whilst at the same time bringing developing country emissions into the picture in a meaningful way. In addition, it sets the scene for sustained action in the years to come on the basis of a single principle that has delivered a great deal in the past - "Trust, but verify". Ronald Reagan used this on many occasion, usually in relation to talks with the then Soviet Union and typically in the context of strategic arms limitation and reduction talks. The principle has not completely solved the issue of the nuclear arms build up, but it has allowed sustainable progress over more than twenty years, resulting in a significant reduction in nuclear weapon stockpiles. Importantly, the trust gap between the USA and the Soviet Union was bridged and ultimately sealed through verification.

Today, the gap to bridge on climate change exists between the United States and China and the "I won't move until he does" syndrome is strangely reminiscent of the last years of the Cold War. The Copenhagen Accord hopefully goes some way to bridging that with the text of Paragraph 4 on targets for Annex I Parties and in Paragraph 5 on implementation of mitigation actions and verification for non-Annex I parties. The main deliverable from this text may well be a US cap-and-trade system in 2010 leading to a steady decline in US emissions over the coming decades. China of course must also clearly show that it is delivering on the carbon efficiency of its economy, as promised.

Much remains to be done in 2010 - starting on January 31st when the Accord requires that nations submit their commitments through to 2020. The Accord as it stands today does represent a small step forward and perhaps even a giant leap for President Obama and Premier Wen Jiabao, but at this early stage it still lacks the true substance necessary to deliver significant and sustainable reductions through to 2020 and beyond.

By David Hone  |  December 23, 2009; 6:45 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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