Lowy Institute for International Policy
Confronting the Crisis of International Climate Policy
What is the problem?
Copenhagen failed to produce an agreement on climate change commensurate with the scale of the problem, highlighting the fundamental weaknesses in the existing UN framework. Progress on a new agreement is agonizingly slow, with fundamental disagreements remaining on nearly ever aspect of the negotiation agenda. Weightier commitments by the major emitters are necessary, but calls for 'greater ambition' ignore the structural problems embedded in the institutions, processes and policy models of the UN climate regime.
What should be done?
Under a price-based international framework, countries would undertake to implement specified actions and policies. Those policies should then be converted into an internationally standardized form of economy wide ‘carbon price equivalent,’ with each country pledging/negotiating to implement a starting carbon price equivalent policy along with a schedule of real annual price increases.
This framework would be more likely to achieve rapid emissions reductions and countries’ commitments should more readily conform to the widely accepted principles of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ and ‘comparable effort.’ The framework could be negotiated relatively promptly among the 17 highest emitters, which meet regularly within the US-led Major Economies Forum, while negotiations over a comprehensive treaty continue within the UN.