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A coalition of the willing

As climate talks get under way in Bonn, Thomas Hale and Scott Moore call for a radical new approach to cutting emissions that sidesteps intergovernmental deadlock and unites eager players, from Wal-Mart to city halls.

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What do California, the European Union, Wal-Mart, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection and the reader of this article have in common? They, not nation states, are now the frontline in the struggle to make the climate safe for future generations.

Intergovernmental efforts to limit the gases that cause climate change have all but failed. After the December 2009 Copenhagen summit, it’s hard to see how major emitters will soon agree on mutual emissions reductions sufficiently ambitious to prevent significant changes to Earth's climate.

This is because international negotiations depend on countries – and the two largest emitters in particular, the United States and China. Climate-change legislation in the US, widely perceived as a prerequisite to a global agreement, remains trapped in a dysfunctional Senate. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party worries about the effects emissions cuts would have on economic growth and social stability. While it has pledged to reduce the intensity of China’s emissions, the government has yet to commit to internationally verifiable reductions. Each country wants the other to move first, but with gridlock in Washington and Beijing, the world cannot expect a global climate agreement any time soon.

But this need not mean resigning ourselves to rising sea levels, declining agricultural yields and other dangers of climate change. Nor need we wring our hands at the recalcitrance of the “G2”. We can make second-best – but still worthwhile – progress toward mitigating climate change without a multilateral treaty. What we need now is a coalition of the willing to act where the intergovernmental process has failed.

This coalition would include all parties who want to reduce greenhouse gases – countries, certainly, but also regions, provinces, states, cities and towns. It should also include cross-border networks of domestic governmental agencies, like environmental regulators and transportation officials, as well as private organisations ranging from corporations to civil-society groups. Individual citizens, too, must be given a role. Together, these actors would represent an enormous share of the world’s population and economy.

The building blocks of this coalition – really, a coalition of coalitions – already exist. One of the few bright spots during the Copenhagen negotiations was the announcement of the “R20”, a coalition of 20 of the world's largest cities and regions, including California and Paris, to pursue aggressive emissions reductions, even in the absence of national policies. Many of the world's largest multinational corporations, including Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart, are formulating ambitious plans to reduce their carbon footprints. And consumer demand for low-carbon products is growing; Tesco, one of Britain's largest retailers, plans to introduce a carbon-footprint labelling system on all of its products.

Fighting climate change through coalitions like these is inevitably messier, more difficult to coordinate and less precise than a global treaty. But this reflects the realities of climate change. Although, as a process, climate change is global, its effects will vary widely from place to place. It is inevitable that the peoples of the world will weigh the costs and benefits of climate-change mitigation according to their own interests, values and preferences. This must be recognised at the international level.

How? First, top political leaders should use their bully pulpits to summon all willing parties into a global coalition for the climate. Only the heads of state of the G20, for example, have the standing to convene a coalition vast enough to make an appreciable difference. The idea should then be sanctioned and supported by multilateral bodies, especially the United Nations. Such support need not be equivalent to abandoning the global-treaty process; it would instead only recognise that an effective global treaty is years away and that the best way forward at this point is to build coalitions. The European Union, which was marginalised at Copenhagen, should lead the way with diplomatic and financial support in order to regain credibility as a global environmental superpower.

The various participants in climate coalitions should be prepared to use a number of tools to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Governments can act aggressively by following the lead of Britain, California and others and cap emissions even in the absence of global or national agreements. A “mini-lateral” agreement between, say, the EU and prominent developing countries like India and Brazil, would reinforce these efforts. Similarly, government policy and civil-society pressure should encourage voluntary regulation and individual action by corporations, cities and citizens to reduce emissions.

The climate coalition should use both carrots and sticks to advance emissions reductions. Peer-to-peer networks of firms, regulators, civil society groups and individuals can develop and disseminate best practices for reducing emissions, thus making reductions more efficient. Technology-transfer regimes, such as those used successfully under the Montreal Protocol to reduce ozone-depleting chemicals, can help spread the use of clean technology.

In addition to these positive incentives, coalition members can adopt various measures to pressure climate laggards to increase their standards and to punish coalition members that break their commitments. Many consumers and investors, including government procurers and pension funds, already direct their money to companies that have proactive climate policies. These programmes should be strengthened and expanded. Even more forceful would be targeted sanctions against climate laggards, currently under consideration in the US and Europe. While it remains unclear exactly how such rules would interact with global trade laws, it seems likely such “carbon sanctions” would be allowed as long they were applied in a non-discriminatory fashion. These sanctions would be most fair and effective if they could discriminate on a sub-national basis, for example on a regional or even company level.

The prospects for global agreement on climate change look bleak. But none of the great transformations in world history – industry, democratisation, communications – were achieved by international treaty alone. Rather, patterns of innovation have spread across the world in manifold ways. The same approach can work for fighting climate change. Building coalitions of the willing can allow individuals, societies and organisations around the world to move toward tackling the greatest challenge of our time.

Scott Moore is a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute. Thomas Hale is a PhD candidate in the department of politics at Princeton University.

Homepage image from Greens Climate

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匿名 | Anonymous





More of the same not green growth is the #1 threat

The notion that reducing pollution – including CO2 emissions – threatens social stability and economic growth in China is false. Much of the increasing tension is due to that pollution and the unfairness and corruption which facilitate that pollution. Sincere efforts to reduce these would be welcomed by the people.

China’s economy is closely tied to the economies of its major export markets – which are not only in recession as a direct consequence of unsustainable and ill-regulated economic growth but will also have to move rapidly away from the materialist paradigm promoted by the proponents of such economic growth in order to reduce their climate change footprints. The impact on lifestyles (through aviation) of volcanic ash clouds and (through fuel and plastic feedstock) of the scandalous oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico will accelerate that shift.

Further, such economic growth as there is in those export markets (and to some extent in China) is based on “green technologies” – not the sunset industries which still dominate China’s politics.

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匿名 | Anonymous

Keeping up the pressure

The sub-national, corporate and individual efforts to combat climate change are absolutely necessary, but probably cannot compensate for the lack of national level action and global commitments. First, the threat of 'imminent' climate legislation is helping drive corporate commitments. Consumer pressure alone may not be sufficient to induce companies to reduce their carbon footprints if climate legislation loses its air of inevitability. Second, national governments can mobilise far greater resources. The $30 billion in climate assistance agreed in the Copenhagen Accord, though paltry, is several orders of magnitude larger than the resources available to private companies, NGOs or sub-national governments (especially bankrupt California).


其次, 国家政府可以调动更多的资源。在哥本哈根协议中,这项耗资30亿美元的气候援助协定,虽然微不足道,但其调用的资源规模要比私营公司,非政府组织或次级国家政府(尤其是破产的加州)大好几个数量级。

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匿名 | Anonymous


由1000万名科学家组成的美国科学促进协会 (AAAS)对气候异教徒进行斥责
作者:Manfred Zysk,于2010年6月2日






By: Manfred Zysk, June 2, 2010
Website: www.MZ-Energy.com

AAAS and EurekAlert! have published numerous reports about AMERICA’S CLIMATE CHOICES; NEW CLIMATE CHANGE REPORTS UNDERSCORE NEED FOR ACTION; ADVANCING THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE; LIMITING THE MAGNITUDE OF FUTURE CLIMATE CHANGE, AND ADAPTING TO THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE with up to date reports in the future such as INFORMING AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE for shaping the policy choices underlying the nation’s efforts to confront climate change.

AAAS letter to Senator – October 21, 2009
As you consider climate change legislation, we, as leaders of scientific organizations, write to state the consensus scientific view.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer–reviewed science. Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment.”

We in the scientific community offer our assistance to inform your deliberations as you seek to address the impacts of climate change.
(For additional information, please see website: www.MZ-Energy.com)

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匿名 | Anonymous




I recently read some Think Tank articles about environmental problems in Europe, and my impression is that the joint action of the whole world's civil society is essential -- only relying on the power of civil society we can truly push those international governmental organisations that "lost their legitimacy" to reach an agreement on improving the conditions of the environment and reacting actively to the climate change issue.