New Article: Where Do We Go Now After the Kyoto Protocol?

Arizona State University’s Dan Bodansky recently published an excellent analysis of where we may be heading after 2012, Bodansky, [W]hither the Kyoto Protocol? Durban and Beyond!, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (Aug. 2011).

Among the take-aways from the article are the following:

  • There are various factions in UN climate change negotiations, including: a. the European Union, which might embrace a new commitment period under Kyoto if part of a comprehenisve framework engaging all major economies, including the United States and China; b. Japan, Canada and Russia, which wish to replace Kyoto with a new comprehensive agreement with commitments by both developed and developing countries, and c. large developing countries, such as China and India, which desire for the Protocol to continue, with quantiative limits only on the emissions of developing countries; and d. The United States, which is willing to negotiate a legally-binding agreement if the mandate applies with equal legal force to all major emitters;
  • Bodansky sets forth 3 potential post 2012 scenarios:
    • Scenario 1: denominated as the “most likely scenario for Durban and beyond,” envisions that negotiations for a second commitment period come to naught by the end of 2012. As a consequence, the only limits to emissions would consist of the  political commitments made at Copenhagen and Cancun. Some parts of the Kyoto Protocol, such as “assigned amount units” would no longer be operational;  however, other provisions not tied to emissions limits would continue in force, such as the CDM, though it is unclear how much impetus there would be for projects, well as reporting requirements and major institutions, e.g. the Meeting of the Parties and the Secretariat. Bodansky also notes that failure to reach an agreement on a second commitment period might further discourage developing countries from engaging in the negotiation process;
    •  Scenario 2: Adoption of an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol establishing a second commitment period. Bodansky argues that the opposition of several Annex I States, including Russia, Canada and Japan, to a second commitment period, would likely result in only a rump of original Kyoto parties, with the EU playing a decisive role. It would be virtually impossible for a second commitment period amendment to be adopted in time to prevent a gap in legally binding commitments; however, an amendment could avoid this by providing for “provisional application” pending entry into force.
    • Scenario 3: Political agreement on a second commitment period. An intermediate outcome would be a transition regime that established a political second commitment period rather than legally binding commitments. It’s unclear what the effectiveness of such an agreement would be. Bodansky argues that some political agreements are strongly adhered to by States, while others are not. It’s also possible that States will view such an agreement as affording them greater flexibility, and thus will be more amenable to accept more ambitious commitments.  Such commitments could extend the Kyoto Protocol in an unchanged fashion, or a different approach might be taken, e.g. establishing economy-wide targets that would generate assigned amount units (AAUs) that could be traded, or a less ambitious approach could be taken, such as conditional targets or targets specified in a range.

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