Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Analysis of Copenhagen

Just to start: I'm back to blogging on climate change and security issues, after an extended hiatus over the holidays. 

The IISS recently published an analysis, which I wrote, in our Strategic Comments web-based magazine called: "Copenhagen Accord faces first test".  Overall, my assessment from a few weeks after the conference is decidedly more upbeat than my 'first assessment' written the day after the event concluded in a cloud of acrimony. 

As I write in the article:
"The Copenhagen Accord should not be judged by the events in two weeks in December. Its success will be judged by national responses over the next decade."
The first test for whether countries are serious about addressing this issue will come on January 31, when national commitments are due to the UN.

Though some bemoan that Copenhagen did not produce a binding treaty, I think that's a good thing.  US Senators, much like Chinese Communist Party Officials and members of India's parliament, do not like international bodies telling them what they can or cannot do. I would contend that the only countries where you may have members of legislative assemblies asking to be bound by a supranational treaty are Europeans, because they've gotten used to it.  I contend that the Copenhagen Accord, because it is non-binding and calls for voluntary commitments will be more effective than a binding treaty with mandatory commitments (a-la Kyoto) could be.  James Bacchus, writing in Forbes notes that this was how the GATT began in 1948, and it succeeded in its goals of dramatically increasing international trade. 

Instead of a long-term binding treaty, negotiations can continue to adjust to changing scientific, climactic, and political realities under the Copenhagen Accord.  These can be negotiated through processes like the G-20 and the Major Economies Forum.  Ronald Bailey at Reason magazine contends that this closely resembles the program that the Bush administration followed, and I would contend that by 2007, the Bush Administration actually had a pretty good climate policy in place.  The trouble was, nobody stopped to notice by then: the narrative had already been written. 

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