Policy Brief - Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center

European Proposal For a Global Pact on Climate Change

| February 4, 2009

The January 23, 2009, release of the European Union (EU)'s proposal for a global pact on climate change marks a major step on the road to the 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. The European blueprint raises several interesting issues for further discussion and consideration.

The Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, as a matter of course, does not endorse individual countries' negotiating positions. Nevertheless, the European climate platform discusses several issues that will be important moving forward. The Harvard Project's 26 research teams have examined these issues closely. Some of their relevant findings are outlined below.

EU Proposal on "Improving UN-based Offsetting Mechanisms"
Several Harvard Project papers look at reform of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). For example, Andrew Keeler and Alexander Thompson, both of Ohio State University, propose a more expansive approach to offsets that would meet the different objectives of industrialized and developing countries while providing substantial support for long-term investments and policy changes to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the developing world. Their approach would involve less emphasis on strict ton-for-ton accounting and more emphasis on a range of activities that could produce significant long-term benefits. The criteria for offsets would be changed from "real, verifiable, and permanent reductions" to "actions that create real progress in developing countries toward mitigation and adaptation."

Download the full paper (and two-page summary for policymakers) here:

Several other Harvard Project authors also discuss CDM reform. Their papers may be downloaded here:

Additionally, Andrew Plantinga of Oregon State University and Kenneth Richards of Indiana University discuss alternative approaches to preventing deforestation. They propose a "national inventory" approach, in which states receive credits or debits for changes in forest carbon inventories relative to a measured baseline.

Download the full paper (and two-page summary for policymakers) here:

EU Proposal to Link Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Cap-and-Trade Systems
Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Project, and Judson Jaffe, vice president of Analysis Group, have researched the issues surrounding linking national cap-and-trade systems. They find that linkages can significantly reduce the cost of achieving global emission targets and can offer other important benefits, including reduction in volatility. At the same time, some linkages can raise legitimate concerns — most importantly, reduced control over allowance prices in a country's own system and can automatic propagation of cost-containment measures — banking, borrowing, and safety-valves — from one system to another. They find that, in the near term, indirect linkages through the CDM or some other global emission-reduction-credit system may be most promising.

Download the full paper (and two-page summary for policymakers) here:

EU Proposal on Actions of Developing Countries in Reducing GHG Emissions
The Harvard Project addresses developing country participation in a number of papers, including contributions from several authors in India and China. Two examples:

  • Jing Cao of Tsinghua University in Beijing focuses on how to break the current political impasse between the developed and the developing countries. She proposes a multi-stage framework that gradually engages developing countries. Download her paper here.
  • Ramgopal Agarwala of Research and Information System for Developing Countries, India, proposes an approach in which targets for the developed countries are mandatory in so far as they can be achieved by national action. For developing countries, the targets are conditional on receipt of funding and technology from international sources. Download his paper here.

EU Proposal on Calculating Targets for Developed Countries
The EU has proposed using gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, GHG emissions per unit of GDP, trend in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2005, and population trends between 1990 and 2005 to determine targets for individual developed countries.

Several Harvard Project papers address this question, notably Jeffrey Frankel's work on setting emissions caps using formulas. Frankel shapes his formulas to include three factors: (1) At first, richer countries make more severe cuts relative to their business-as-usual emissions, (2) States that did not agree to binding targets under Kyoto make gradual emissions cuts to account for their additional emissions since 1990, and (3) During each decade of the second half of the century, per capita emissions in each country move a small step in the direction of the global average of per capita emissions.

Download the full paper (and two-page summary for policymakers) here.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Talcott, Sasha. “European Proposal For a Global Pact on Climate Change.” Policy Brief, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center, February 4, 2009.

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