Copenhagen Climate Summit: Re-Think Expectations & Share Technologies

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Michael Levi Council on Foreign RelationsAuthor and scholar Michael Levi says in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that the odds of signing a climate treaty in Copenhagen this December are extremely small and argues that policymakers and environmental advocates should rethink their expectations for the summit.

Levi, a senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, contends that the conventional treaty model – which focuses on high-level agreements on emissions caps and carbon trading schemes – is fundamentally flawed because emissions caps are largely unverifiable and unenforceable. Short of bullying with punitive sanctions, nothing can be done if caps are exceeded.

In addition, Levi said developing countries will lobby for lenient emissions caps, in part because they can be a source of income; if emissions goals are coupled with a cap-and-trade carbon market, countries request easy targets so that they can sell carbon credits once they have exceeded their low emissions goals.

Levi recommends a more bottom-up approach, saying that real change happens when individual nations adopt laws and programs to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than investing great hopes in occasional summits, Levi argues, nations should conduct ongoing climate talks — aimed, for example, at sharing technology — similar to international trade negotiations.

Appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360.

[photo credit: Council on Foreign Relations]

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