The beginning of a new treaty
I believe most observers will agree that the Danes made a good decision to use the UN climate change conference to focus on the two principal issues at play: how big will the emissions reductions be, and what will be the range of financing that developed nations will commit to. Copenhagen will also zero in on several key substantive issues that have divided the line negotiators, which will prevent them from getting tied up in arguments over the legal form and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
This strategy also works well with the timeframe for action on climate legislation in the United States Senate. And it gives President Obama the leeway to indicate a range of action the United States would likely take without making a firm commitment until the Senate has acted and the bill becomes law.
There is precedent for this kind of an approach. At the UN climate negotiations at The Hague in 2000, global leaders reached a stalemate on provisions to implement the Kyoto Protocol. The UN continued the negotiations at Bonn in 2001, where ministers made a series of key decisions on issues that were dividing them. The line negotiators met later that fall in Marrakech to produce a detailed text and rules to guide the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
We need to see this as a process that will lead to agreement on a new treaty in 2010. That treaty, too, will likely be designed to be more of an evolutionary document where all countries can insert the specifics of their reductions policies in schedules that are part of the treaty, and what financing developed nations will agree to provide to help specific developing countries to achieve those actions. So we are not working from a big bang theory of treaty development, but rather an evolutionary process that increases the efforts over time.
November 20, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
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