How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course: New Report Proposes Post-Kyoto Framework for Copenhagen

July 7, 2009 | Teryn Norris,

By Leigh Ewbank, Breakthrough Fellow

A joint London School of Economics / University of Oxford report published today presents a new approach to post-Kyoto climate change policy. The report, How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course, coincides with this week's G8 summit and Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, and calls on policy makers to abandon the failed Kyoto-style framework and instead focus directly on decarbonizing global energy systems.

The new report builds on Professor Gwyn Prins' and Professor Steve Rayner's influential critique of the Kyoto Protocol, The Wrong Trousers: Radically Rethinking Climate Policy, and adds further weight to calls to scrap Kyoto.

How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course explains that the rise in the carbon intensity of the global economy since 2001 has occurred alongside efforts to limit carbon emissions--most notably the Kyoto Protocol and the EU emissions trading scheme. This correlation highlights the failure of emissions-centric policy. The report's coordinating author Professor Gwyn Prins warns adherents of the Kyoto-style approach:

'In the real world, indicators are moving stubbornly in the wrong direction. The world has been re-carbonising, not de-carbonising. The evidence is that the Kyoto Protocol and its underlying approach have had and are having no meaningful effect whatsoever.'

To overcome ineffective climate policy, Prins and his coauthors recommend policy makers adopt the 'Direct Kaya Approach'. This approach would aim to reduce the carbon intensity of an economy through increasing energy efficiency and deploying low-carbon technologies. According to co-author, Professor Steve Rayner of Oxford University, this approach has the advantage of historical precedent:
'The world has centuries of experience in decarbonising its energy supply and Japan has led the world in policy-driven improvements in energy efficiency. These are the models to which we ought to be looking.'

The report cites Japan's recently approved 'Mamizu' climate strategy as the world's first based on the Direct Kaya Approach. Japan's emissions reduction target of 15% below 2005 levels by 2020 represents a 33% reduction in the carbon intensity of Japan's economy--quite a target considering that Japan is already one of the most efficient economies. In sharp contrast to the Waxman-Markey bill, Japan's target will be met through increased energy efficiency and deployment of clean technology, not through the use of dubious 'offsets'.

Overall, the report underscores the need to adopt a new framework for an international agreement on climate change. The Breakthrough Institute's Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus have called for massive global investment in new clean energy technology to replace the deeply flawed Kyoto-style framework. Targets for investment in renewable energy research, development and deployment, and a multilateral agreement for technology transfer and cooperation among the world's largest emitters could form the basis of a new framework. Such policies can enhance the decarbonization model proposed in the Prins report.


'How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course' was coordinated by Professor Gwyn Prins and drew on the expertise of leading research institutes in Europe, North America and Asia.