New and Improved Course for a Climate Regime

The Environmental Forum, pp.48

March 2010

Was the Copenhagen summit a failure? What will the international climate change regime look like in the next three to five years?  Kyle Danish responds.

By Kyle Danish

To be sure, the Copenhagen talks did not produce a fully realized successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The three-page agreement salvaged from the chaotic conference may seem like a slim result for all of the hype that preceded COP-15.

However, the summit was by no means a failure. The Copenhagen Accord charts a new and improved course for the international climate change regime. Whether the negotiations can make further progress this year, however, is a real question.

The accord departs from the Kyoto Protocol architecture in important respects. For the first time, it establishes a long-term goal for the climate regime: limiting the increase in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Most importantly, the accord breaks down the protocol’s anachronistic distinction between “developed” countries and “developing” countries. The new agreement makes clear that all major emitting countries will make mitigation commitments. And, indeed, countries such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa already have followed through on inscribing their national commitments into the accord’s schedule. Most scientists believe these commitments fall short of what is needed to avoid a 2 degree increase, but it is a start.

The Copenhagen talks also made progress on the issue of verification of commitments.


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Reprinted with permission by the Environmental Law Institute