September 04, 2009
New "National Schedules" Proposal Could Change International Strategy in Time for Copenhag
As the time for developed and developing nations to come to a global agreement on climate change mitigation and pave the way for productive climate negotiations in Copenhagen dwindles, Australian climate change ambassador Louise Hand proposed an idea that could potentially bring the ongoing stalemate to an end, just in time.
According to Reuter's coverage of the climate talks taking place in Bangkok, Thailand, Hand pitched the delegates on the concept of a national schedule, which, instead of stubbornly insisting on binding emissions targets, commits developing countries to a series of climate mitigation steps that are both economically and realistically feasible. Rich countries would still be free to agree to the targets most of them are so insistent upon.
In this way, all countries involved are demonstrating a commitment to climate change mitigation without putting their growing economies at risk. As Hand remarked, the concept is relatively simple:
"At its core it is a simple idea...Each party would have a national schedule attached to the treaty. In the schedule would be parties' mitigation actions -- economy-wide targets for developed countries; a suite of actions for developing countries."
While some environmentalists are concerned that allowing developing nations to sidestep binding targets represents backsliding from the Kyoto framework, this concept of national schedules may actually prove more effective at reducing emissions than targets, which are typically "magical" climate change solutions rather than specific, achievable action plans.
By allowing developing nations to create national schedules, they are able to tailor their climate change mitigation commitments to the political and economic situation within their own country without the pressure to resort to dubious accounting methods simply to appear to meet a target. Simultaneously, rich countries are placated by written commitments to climate change mitigation from the developing world.
In addition, developing nations may be motivated to put more effort into clean energy industries as part of their scheduled action plan, a step that will ultimately lead to emissions reductions and economic growth. This national schedules approach, by encouraging developing countries to create specific action plans built on increasing energy efficiency and building clean energy supplies, would actually bring us one step closer to a Kaya Direct approach, which if suitably aggressive and actionable, could actually get the international negotiations back on track to deliver real emissions reductions and not just magical accounting tricks and symbolic commitments.
The United States, which is now considering the Senate version of a climate and energy bill, has proposed scrapping binding emissions targets from an international treaty, altogether, and instead suggests a national schedule type framework for all countries, rich and poor, alike. Under this framework, countries would agree to shared but non-binding international targets and actionable, specific and binding (to the extent possible for international treaties) national schedules focused on measures that directly drive energy intensity improvements and the decarbonization of the growing global energy supply.
Developing nations, however, see this as an escape clause for rich countries to avoid taking decisive, measurable action. But given the failure of the Kyoto Protocol to result in significant emissions reductions, these new proposals, which center more on strategic, feasible action plans to improve energy efficiency and transition to clean energy, rather than symbolic commitments, may be the first sign of true progress on the road to Copenhagen.