Climate Compass Blog

Linking emissions trading programs can advance climate policy

Despite some modest steps forward, the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha was a reminder of the slow-paced nature of international negotiations. Annual conferences like these aim to achieve international agreement on reducing the man-made emissions causing climate change, but 20 years after the launch of the U.N. climate process, global emissions continue to rise.

Progress is being made at the domestic level, however, and in many cases, the policy of choice is emissions trading. One of the major challenges going forward is linking these emerging trading systems to achieve the efficiencies of an integrated global greenhouse gas market. The European Union and Australia have announced plans to link their trading systems, and California and Quebec are working toward linking theirs.

Not yet on track to 17 percent reduction

With the latest round of international climate change talks underway in Doha this week, it’s a good time to check in on the United States’ pledge, made three years in Copenhagen, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  Are we on track to meet that?

The short answer: Not yet. But projections depend on assumptions, so let’s look at a few recent projections.

Reflections from Doha: It's never easy

As international climate summits go, Doha should be relatively straightforward.  Essentially, parties need to wrap up some old business so they can start negotiating in earnest next year toward a 2015 agreement.   So why is everything so gummed up?

Two reasons: Expectations die hard.  And however modest the formal agenda might be, the rhetorical agenda knows no bounds.

The “Instability Ingredient” and Business Risk

Businesses have always had to predict and manage risks. Those risks include the potential impact of extreme weather such as floods, storms and drought on a company's supply chain, power supply, and property.

But now companies must find a way to factor in the "instability ingredient" -- climate change -- which is likely to make weather more unpredictable, extreme -- and costly -- in the future.

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Shifting gears in Doha

I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog: “Should international negotiators abandon the top-down multilateral system to confront climate change and find another way?”

You can ready other responses at the National Journal.

Here is my response: True enough, the Doha climate talks will produce no big breakthroughs. Compared to the last three conferences – Copenhagen, Cancún and Durban – Doha is indeed a pretty ho-hum affair.

That is no doubt disappointing to anyone still looking to the U.N. climate negotiations to deliver a quick, decisive response to the challenge of global climate change. In actuality, though, the diplomatic humdrum in Doha marks a long overdue shifting of gears that could, in time, produce a far more practical approach.