The agreement reached today at COP 7 in Marrakech is a critical and commendable step forward in the international effort against climate change. Four years after negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, nations have now succeeded in turning its broad mandate into a workable framework for action. Now they must deliver on Kyoto's promise by bringing the Protocol into force and taking the necessary steps at home to fully implement it.
As other nations move to fulfill their Kyoto commitments, it is imperative that the United States also commit itself to a binding strategy that produces genuine emissions reductions. Over time, the aim must be to merge the U.S. and international efforts, as an effective strategy against climate change ultimately requires an overarching global framework in which all nations work together. Toward that end, any domestic effort in the United States should be consistent wherever possible with the Kyoto Protocol, and opportunities to link the regimes should be explored. The learning opportunities afforded by parallel approaches also can contribute to improved strategies when convergence becomes possible.
The period ahead promises continued uncertainty and new complications for U.S. business. Whatever short-term competitive advantage may result from the United States' rejection of Kyoto will be far outweighed in the long term by the harmful economic and environmental consequences of inaction. As demonstrated in a Pew Center report released last week, forward-thinking companies that have set their own greenhouse gas reduction targets find that the resulting efficiencies and innovations benefit not only the climate but also their bottom lines. A growing number of major companies will continue to work in the domestic and international arenas to advance sensible, cost-effective climate policies that can deliver both environmental and economic gains.
While today's agreement is a significant achievement, we must recognize that Kyoto, and any parallel effort that emerges in the United States, represent only first steps in addressing the long-term threat of climate change. As difficult as it has been to advance over the past decade from Rio to Kyoto to Marrakech, far greater challenges lie ahead as we continue to work toward a truly effective global strategy that will spare future generations from the grave risks of global warming.