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ICEF 2nd. Annual Meeting Summary: Concurrent Session - International Framework for Complementing UN

Posted by ICEF Secretariat August 27, 2015

While the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is expected to play a central role in the field, the regime is facing numerous challenges towards achieving its ultimate goal. In this session the following will be discussed: how to overcome those challenges, and how partnerships and collaboration among forums and regimes beyond the UNFCCC can complement the work of the UNFCCC.

ICEF2015 Program



Robert N. Stavins [Chair], the Chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Faculty Group at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

For more than two decades, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCC) has been at the center of international negotiations to address global climate change.  This process has produced the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, as well as a set of related decisions and institutions.  Also under the UNFCCC, the 2011 Durban Platform for Enhanced Action called for a new agreement to be adopted in 2015 for implementation in 2020 as the core post-Kyoto international framework for action on climate change.  As the negotiators approach the Paris climate talks in December, they have converged on a hybrid policy architecture that may combine top-down elements for monitoring, reporting, and verification, with a set of bottom-up national “pledges” in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.  This new approach holds promise, but it also presents challenges.  Although it will engage a much broader set of countries than the Annex I countries that took on commitments under Kyoto, concerns have been raised about the degree of ambition that such a bottom-up approach can achieve.

In light of this, it is important to continue to consider other venues outside of the UNFCCC that can complement, if not substitute, for the agreements and institutional arrangements provided by the UN.  Possible roles for other institutions have emerged at multiple scales, including the G20, the Major Economies Forum, and various bilateral arrangements (such as China-USA cooperation).  The idea of climate clubs has also received attention.  Such clubs could be parallel to, and within or outside of the UNFCCC context.  Possible approaches include clubs of national carbon taxes and carbon-market clubs.  The benefits could be greater cost-effectiveness, and reduced concerns about competitive distortions, free-riding, and carbon leakage.  By providing exclusive member benefits, clubs can encourage wider uptake, but the need for exclusive benefits raises serious concerns, such as with recommendations for imposition of border adjustment measures on non-members.



Eija-Riitta Korhola, Former member of European Parliament; Adviser in European Affair

In the beginning of last decade I was still a firm supporter of the Kyoto protocol. However, the legislative work with emissions trading opened my eyes. In 2005 when the Kyoto Protocol finally entered into force I anticipated in my press release that when it comes to climate, this treaty may be even counterproductive. The agreement is valuable as an expression of political will, but in terms of emissions it may be harmful. In the light of emission trends, this estimate was accurate. Good climate politics cannot be promoted without measures that happen hand in hand among the biggest emitters. Otherwise, the reductions in one place trigger an even higher increase in emissions in another. Analysing the international trade volumes support this conclusion.

Hence, the EU’s climate performance has proven out to be counterproductive.  If we take into account not only production- but also consumption-based emissions; that is, increased import from outside the EU, we have to conclude that the EU’s total responsibility for emissions have increased. The imported emissions outweigh the achievements in domestic reductions. In practice, we have outsourced our emissions.



Mitsutsune Yamaguchi, Special Advisor, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE)

It is obvious, from the past experiences, that UNFCCC (United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change), is never enough to tackle climate change despite all its virtue of universal participation. The most important barrier to success is the required unanimity in its decision-making process. The second one is the concept of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), which all signatories to the Convention have agreed to. What matters, however, is that the dichotomy of developed and developing countries is inappropriate. Also it is unclear if GHG emissions should be counted since industrialization or since 1990.

Under the situation, we have to mobilize all possible mechanisms to complement UNFCCC. Similarity can be seen in the relationship between the World Trade Organization and Regional Trade Agreements. As shown in IPCC 5th Assessment Report, there are many ways to complement UNFCCC bilaterally, regionally or internationally. Among them, I will briefly discuss a sectoral approach.

The first one is the fuel efficiency regulations adopted in International Maritime Organization (IMO). It is noteworthy that the regulations are applicable to all ships regardless of their flags. The second one is sector-wide industry voluntary initiative for energy efficiency improvement, taking steel industry and power generation sector as examples.

Lastly, I will discuss uncertainty surrounding the equilibrium climate sensitivity and argue that the Paris agreement should be a “strong-weak” agreement rather than “weak-strong” agreement that may collapse.

I really hope the presentation would provoke lively discussions.