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  1. Canadian Journal of Forest Research
  2. Strengths and Weaknesses
  3. A Government Climate Study Contradicts the President | WIRED

Mechanisms are sets of entities and activities organized to produce a regular series of changes from a beginning state to an ending McAdam et al. Often mechanisms are unobservable or hidden phenomena, sensitive to variations in context, but empirically traceable processes that act as a cause in generating the outcome Pawson and Tilley Causality is not simply a functional description of a certain variable, but requires uncovering how X actually produces Y under specific conditions. Thus, context is important to this relationship and the role that it plays in determining outcomes. Initial conditions play a key role in determining how mechanisms are triggered and how they respond to certain contextual conditions.

Identifying the context and the mechanism is important when formulating hypotheses. It is critical to understand under what conditions the mechanisms are most likely to occur or produce a particular outcome Pawson and Tilley This more robust understanding of causality opens up the black boxes of forest management decision-making. In doing so, social scientists will find a diversity of causal mechanisms that affect policy outcomes.

There are different broad mechanism types: structural, cognitive, and relational. Second, mechanisms can span between micro-level individual and macro-level structural phenomena Bunge ; Checkel Given the multi-level nature of climate change decision-making, these mechanisms are particularly important. Transformational mechanisms are those in which individuals, through their actions and interactions, generate intended and unintended outcomes.

Third, forest social-science researchers need to be aware of the temporal nature of mechanisms, which includes the time horizons of both the mechanism and outcomes Pierson ; Beach and Pedersen For example, some slow-moving causal processes result in a threshold event resulting in a sudden change. In the social sciences, there are many examples of mechanisms that fit these broad categories; for example, Williamson and Nelson refer to inflexible top-down traditional modes of governance as a barrier. The emergence of new values that can be attributed to the role of negative feedbacks challenging the long-term stability of policy monopolies is an example of a cognitive transformative mechanism Baumgartner and Jones Finally, the intervention by collaborative leaders a situational action-formation mechanism can be explained by measurable rational choice models of key officials maximizing their control of government Downs , seeking intrinsic rewards of their office Riker , or the combination of vote-seeking party, office-seeking, and policy-seeking behavior Strom From each of these more specific mechanisms, testable hypotheses can be developed.

A related problem with the barriers approach is the absence of a rigorous research program that will ultimately inform policy-making. Beyond a long list of barriers, researchers have no way of assessing actual outputs without understanding the dynamics and processes hidden in the forest management black box.

A mechanism methodological approach allows researchers to pinpoint specific mechanisms and test them. When the mechanisms are understood, analysts can collect diagnostic evidence, theorize variables and empirical proxies, and test hypotheses, which then provides a narrative explaining how a particular outcome or set of events came about Kay and Baker Process tracing is a qualitative technique for capturing causal mechanisms in action George and Bennett In some cases, a researcher might be interested in a simple change of events related to a single phenomenon. However, in the case of the complex world of sustainable forest management policy-making, there often is a convergence of a number of conditions or complex interaction causal factors Trampusch and Palier Theory-testing process tracing is employed when a phenomenon X causing outcome Y is known but the mechanism is not specified.

Because mechanisms are portable concepts, they can be applied by policy researchers to further elaborate the long-term nature of policy change. Alternatively, in theory-building process tracing, the relationship between X and Y is detected but the researcher cannot identify the mechanism or when the outcome Y is known, but X is unknown. In both cases, the researcher develops a new mechanism. Theory building would require considerably more time and effort than theory testing.

In explaining outcome process tracing, the outcome Y is known but X is unknown or the researcher is interesting in fully explaining why X happened. In each type of process tracing, the analyst will develop a causal mechanism. From collecting such information, the inferential weight of the evidence and the hypotheses can be assessed using four well-known tests that apply Bayesian probability straw-in-the-wind, hoop, smoking-gun, and doubly decisive tests see Van Evera These tests examine whether necessary and or sufficient conditions for inferring evidence from the hypotheses exist.

The principles of certainty and uniqueness of the evidence reflect the necessary and sufficient conditions. The straw-in-the-wind test supports or weakens a hypothesis but does not exclude it. The smoking-gun test confirms the hypothesis but does not exclude other hypotheses. The hoop test rejects a hypothesis but does not influence other hypotheses.

Finally, the doubly decisive test confirms a single hypothesis and disconfirms other rival hypotheses. Often researchers will be interested in comparing a number of cases, for example, comparing climate change policy in a number of jurisdictions. Qualitative comparative analysis QCA is a popular approach that applies set theory and conceives cases as configurations of attributes.

QCA examines the necessity and sufficiency of configurations of conditions that combine to generate outcomes and enable causal interpretation Ragin To answer this question, climate change researchers need to transition from the barriers approach and take up the challenge of identifying specific mechanisms affecting forest management decisions outcomes. A toolkit equipped with well-elaborated mechanisms is not only useful for precision and depth to understand the generative processes of existing theoretical models, but also valuable for empirical research and enhancing decision-making Tranow et al.

This may lead to what Dietz et al. Thus, the social scientist and public official can benefit from a deeper understanding of causal mechanisms. Tim B. Williamson , Harry W. Advanced Search. All Journals Journal. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. Corresponding author: Adam Wellstead email: awellste mtu. Footnotes 2 Specifically, Elster , p. Almond GA. A developmental approach to political systems. World Polit. Baumgartner, F.

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Agendas and instability in American politics. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. Google Scholar. Beach, D. Process-tracing methods: foundations and guidelines. Opening up the black box of adaptation decision-making. Explaining through causal mechanisms: resilience and governance of social—ecological systems. Bunge M. Mechanism and explanation. Social Sci. To bridge the divide between evidence and policy: reduce ambiguity as much as uncertainty. Public Adm. Checkel JT.

Tracing causal mechanisms. Chilcote, R. Theories of comparative politics: the search for a paradigm reconsidered. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado. Dahl RA. The concept of power. Behavioral Sci. The struggle to govern the commons. Downs A. An economic theory of political action in a democracy. Easton, D. A systems analysis of political life. Wiley, New York. Explaining and overcoming barriers to climate change adaptation. Elster, J. Explaining technical change: a case study in the philosophy of science.

Cambridge University Press Archive. An introduction to Karl Marx. Cambridge University Press, New York. Eyzaguirre, J. Adaptation: linking research and practice. In Canada in a changing climate: sector perspectives on impacts and adaptation. Edited by F. Warren and D. Government of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Climate change vulnerability assessments: an evolution of conceptual thinking.

George, A. Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Gleeson, J. Groth AJ. Structural functionalism and political development: three problems. Social mechanisms: An analytical approach to social theory. Cambridge University Press. Kay A, Baker P. What can causal process tracing offer to policy studies? A review of the literature. Policy Stud. Lilienfeld, R. The rise of systems theory: an ideological analysis. Lindquist, E. Making sense of complexity: advances and gaps in comprehending the Canadian forest policy process.

These international institutions are also not well coordinated, with occasionally weak mechanisms that can fail to complement each other. Another important path to low-carbon development is new technology, such as carbon capture and storage CCS , which focuses on securing and storing carbon dioxide emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. Although this technology is still in its early stages, successful pilot projects offer hope of developing and implementing it for large-scale projects.

Some countries are committed to implementing variations of it, and both bilateral and multilateral cooperation is under way. This cooperation is particularly important because implementing CCS on a large scale can be expensive and offers few obvious economic benefits.

One of the major multilateral efforts in this area is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum CSLF , which supports joint efforts to develop cost-effective carbon sequestration technology. Additionally, an international initiative, Futuregen , led by the U. Department of Energy, harnesses public and private-sector funds and expertise to help build near-zero emissions plants around the world. Renewable and nuclear energy will be critical in diminishing reliance on fossil fuels and developing low-carbon communities.

Expectations for nuclear power as an alternative source of energy are especially high among big emitters such as India, China, and the United States, as well as in a number of developing countries that lack the necessary infrastructure to meet their growing energy needs. Since the nuclear incident in the wake of Japan's March earthquake and tsunami, some of the support for nuclear power has declined. When nuclear energy is optimal, the agency assists with energy planning and developing relevant infrastructure, such as drafting nuclear legislation and establishing independent and effective safety regulators.

However, given its limited resources, the IAEA will find it increasingly difficult to meet the growing demands for its services as more developing countries seek help in establishing nuclear facilities. There has also been significant international action on renewable energy. Despite these promising international efforts, only about 25 percent [PDF] of the world's energy is produced through renewable and alternative sources including hydroelectric, biomass, and nuclear.

Another dimension of the solution is often ignored but is likely, in the long term, to be the most prominent: domestic policy reform in developing countries that encourages low-carbon investment. This might include steps like energy market reform or reduction of tariff barriers to low-carbon technology transfer. International institutions have begun to promote domestic policy shifts through measures like technical assistance provided by organizations like the UNEP and UNDP , discussions [PDF] on tariff reductions for environmentally friendly technologies through the WTO, and processes aimed at phasing out fossil fuel subsidies spurred through the G Some existing institutions, though, may incidentally work against positive developments in this area.

The Kyoto Protocol's CDM, for example, may discourage countries from making climate-friendly policy changes by rewarding countries only for activities that go beyond existing national policy. Complicating matters, efforts to promote policy shifts and efforts aimed at providing assistance with clean development are rarely coordinated with each other. Adapting to climate change is currently being addressed incidentally through traditional development aid. Moreover, most traditional development aid often aimed at areas like health and agriculture will help countries become more resilient in a changing climate.

Yet the perennial shortfalls in development assistance—both financially and in having the desired policy impact—mean that adaptation assistance invariably falls short as well. There have been targeted efforts to address adaptation in particular. The Kyoto Protocol's Adaptation Fund , supported by a small tax on CDM credit sales, currently yields funds that are supposed to be spent on adaptation.

The fund, however, is severely underfinanced and hobbled by its own bureaucratic governance. The GEF also administers several funds that target adaptation efforts. While the World Bank facilitates this and other Climate Investment Funds, it has also provided loans for coal power plants and other projects not friendly to the climate change agenda. Most of these efforts are not distinguishable from other development support, however, making it difficult for a separate adaptation fund to make a big difference in any case. The CAF also represented the first formal agreement to establish guidelines concerning capacity building in communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Adaptation financing, even after the COP in Durban remains an ad hoc enterprise. Adaptation efforts are also hurt by the failure of the international community to generate precise predictions on the effects of climate change. The IPCC focuses on long-term projections and on regional or global analyses. Organizations like the UNDP help countries use broader projections in national adaptation planning, and national governments sometimes assist others in such efforts. Whether having governments and international institutions handle these projections offers any benefits is, however, still unclear.

The United States and the international community face a host of challenges on the domestic and international fronts in the attempt to build a more robust international climate regime. At home, progress has come to a virtual standstill after the failure of national cap-and-trade legislation. Abroad, the ultimate fate of the Kyoto Protocol looms large. The United States will need to decide whether to rely on state-by-state targets, participate in minilateral forums, or engage in multilateral negotiations for reducing emissions, among other questions.

It must also decide whether it intends to pursue a legally binding climate agreement. Other policy issues straddle the domestic-international divide. Should the international community pursue a legally binding treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol? Yes : Proponents of legally binding commitments, like the Kyoto Protocol, argue that they are the only way to guarantee that countries will cut their emissions. Proponents also argue that by ensuring that others meet their obligations, legally binding commitments help promote stronger action by all parties.

Moreover, they note that in some cases, legal commitments are needed to serve as the basis for schemes involving large financial flows, such as carbon trading. They also point to the heritage of the Kyoto Protocol, which included legally binding commitments for developed countries, and argue that it would be a step backward to take a different route in the future.

Moreover, withdrawing from efforts toward a binding accord would likely signal a retreat from the Durban Platform agreed to by state parties in December Specifically, the COP outcome document calls on states to develop a successor to the Kyoto Protocol with "legal force" by No : On the other hand, detractors of the Kyoto Protocol claim the emissions reduction model inherent to the accord is not tenable, and the outcome of the COP meeting in Durban may prove the international community is trying to move away from using legally binding emissions targets.

Objections to including legally binding commitments at the center of an international climate deal take at least four forms. Some argue that enforcing climate commitments is extremely difficult and that, as a result, the legal nature of commitments may not be meaningful. Thus, they counsel against investing the extra effort normally required to devise a legally binding arrangement. Others argue that because climate commitments may turn out to be difficult or impossible, they should not be made legally binding, thus avoiding the risk of noncompliance. A frequent counterpart to this argument is the claim that because countries are concerned about noncompliance, they will tend to focus on making weak commitments in the first place; freeing them from concerns about being legally bound might also free them to do more.

While some accept the prospect of legally binding commitments for Annex-I countries like the United States in principle, they argue that all major economies or all countries should make similar commitments. If those same analysts also believe that major developing countries will not make legally binding commitments—a widely shared view—then they conclude that major greenhouse gas emitters like the United States should not make such commitments either.

Canada's December decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol reflects this line of thinking. Should the United States focus its resources on minilateral forums rather than the UN climate framework? Yes : Some say that progress on global climate change requires a joint strategy among the small number of actors responsible for the lion's share of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, including China These arenas allow large emitters to confront tricky issues and hammer out viable strategies without having to engage all members of the United Nations.

If the United States focuses its attention on minilateral forums with important players, it may achieve meaningful emissions control targets, as well as financial commitments for mitigation and technological development. No : Others argue that the breadth of its membership and depth of its history makes the UN climate framework the bedrock of the international climate regime. Climate change is a global threat that requires input from the world's most vulnerable nations—not just the world's largest emitters. Experience suggests that major emitting nations may use minilateral forums not to drive concrete action but to avoid binding emissions reductions and other sacrifices to address climate change.

By focusing on minilateral forums , the United States diverts its limited resources from the UN climate negotiations, which are the most legitimate basis for global action. Any climate negotiations that exclude the majority of the world's countries would be difficult to implement and inherently flawed. Should the United States focus on state-by-state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Yes : Proponents of this idea note that climate change action at the federal level is no longer a politically feasible goal within the United States. Efforts to enact cap-and-trade systems in the United States, such as the McCain-Lieberman and Lieberman-Warner legislation, have failed.

The House ultimately passed the Waxman-Markey bill in June , which would have capped greenhouse emissions at 17 percent of levels and provided increased investment for clean energy technology, but the U. Senate failed to agree on a matching cap-and-trade bill.

Intergovernmental organizations and climate security: advancing the research agenda

Furthermore, even relatively minor climate change mitigation regulations have faced bipartisan resistance, with issues like cap-and-trade and a carbon tax basically disappearing from political debate. The nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative RGGI and the Western Climate Initiative WCI also provide evidence that the fifty states are capable of crafting their own climate change plans moulded to the particularities of their geography, resources, and region. The WCI, launched in by six U. According to its design, the WCI forms working committees, which recommend policies aimed at collectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions among member states and provinces.

Relying on a cap-and-trade system, WCI members aim to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent from levels by No : Opponents argue that the rest of the world is looking to the United States to act on climate change, and that pursuing national level reform—even if during the global financial crisis—could give the United States credibility and leverage in this area. Since the failure of cap-and-trade, no significant climate change legislation has passed the House or Senate, calling U. Many climate change analysts also point to criticism regarding the inaction of the United States during the COP as evidence that the climate change issue may be negatively affecting perceptions of U.

Furthermore, some would also suggest that the December decision by Canada to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol has placed the entire global climate change regime in jeopardy. Opponents of a state-by-state strategy also point to New Jersey's decision in to unilaterally pull out of the RGGI and Arizona's move in to leave the Western Climate Initiative as evidence that a state-by-state approach to reducing emissions in the United States is too risky of a strategy to rely on.

In short, a top-down approach, rather than bottom-up alternatives, is likely to be more effective, and more enforceable. Finally, those calling for a national level reprioritization of the issue of climate change in the United States point to the recent passage of carbon tax legislation in another Annex 1 country, Australia, as evidence to support their position. Should international carbon trading be a central part of U. In addition, trading based on either project-based offsets or broader schemes with relatively high baselines could also channel large amounts of money to developing countries.

Many believe that such transfers are the only way to induce deep cuts in developing countries' emissions. Some also make a political argument for trading: integrating countries' emissions-cutting programs into a global market would make it more difficult for any country to back away from its obligations. Supporters of international carbon trading differ on the forms of trading they support. Some support all options— project-based offsets , program-based offsets , sectoral trading , and economy-wide trading. Others support only certain variations, most commonly ones with wider scope such as sectoral or economy-wide options.

No : Opponents of international carbon trading make a variety of arguments. Some object to any efforts to transfer significant sums of money to developing countries, and hence oppose carbon trading. Others support such efforts but argue that they could often be done more effectively through large public funds rather than through carbon markets.

Canadian Journal of Forest Research

Some support carbon trading in principle, but object on the basis that many such systems are unworkable in practice. They point to the experience of the CDM, a part of the Kyoto Protocol that allows developed countries to pay for emissions-cutting projects in developing countries in lieu of reducing their emissions. The CDM has been widely criticized as inefficient and as including many projects that would have occurred anyhow. Some who criticize it believe that its problems can be fixed by moving to other schemes for carbon trading; others disagree. A final group opposes international carbon trading on ethical grounds, arguing that developed countries have a moral obligation to reduce their emissions and that avoiding that obligation by paying others is wrong.

Should the world agree to country-by-country targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions? Yes : Agreeing on country-by-country targets has become the primary goal of recent climate change negotiations. Proponents of assigning greenhouse gas emissions targets to all countries maintain that they are needed to ensure that aggregate global emissions do not exceed dangerous thresholds.

They take their cue from the Kyoto Protocol and its recent extension until or , which focuses on a "targets and timetables" approach for developed countries. Some experts argue that it would be helpful to develop emissions-reduction goals for major emitters by setting short-term timetables and by targeting specific sectors.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Limiting emissions intensity based on the production process instead of setting absolute targets could also prove beneficial. Beyond these points, many note that country-by-country targets are essential to enabling full-blown global carbon trading schemes which could reduce the cost of cutting global emissions and argue that it is only fair for all countries to adopt targets if some do so.

No : Following the failure of the Copenhagen Accord, as well as a lack of agreement on a new legally binding emisssions treaty at the COP, some argue that it may be impossible to garner international consensus on country-specific emissions cuts. Capacity and verification also remain issues in developing countries, making it difficult to implement policies that control ultimate emissions such as cap-and-trade systems. Others support global emissions cuts—often strongly—but argue that adopting targets is not necessary to achieving that end. They contend that international discussions should be focused on suites of emissions-cutting policies and measures policy inputs rather than on emissions policy outcomes.

Yes : Climate change agreements are notoriously weak on enforcement. The Kyoto Protocol technically included penalties for noncompliance; in practice, though, those penalties have not been enforced. Some have turned to trade sanctions as an enforcement tool, arguing that border adjustment tariffs are the appropriate sanction for noncompliance. These would, ostensibly, impose costs on imports from countries with weak climate regulation equal to the costs those countries avoid through lax regulation.

Some also argue that implementing a cap-and-trade system in the United States would politically require border adjustment provisions to compensate for productivity losses stemming from rising energy costs. Domestic legislation taking this factor into account passed in the House, but failed to get through the Senate.

It is yet to be seen, however, how to implement these provisions without violating rules of the World Trade Organization WTO. Others argue such a system would be too weak to prompt appropriate behavior, and push for more punitive sanctions. Proponents of using sanctions for enforcement are also split over whether such sanctions must be part of an international agreement or might be imposed unilaterally.

Those in the first school argue that internationally approved sanctions are more credible as a threat and less likely to disrupt the broader global trading system. They also contend that unilateral sanctions would be too weak. Those in the latter camp doubt that appropriate sanctions could be built into an international agreement and think that sanctions are worth pursuing unilaterally.

No : Opponents of using sanctions argue that they are ineffective and that they could create problems for broader trade and climate efforts. They assert that border adjustment tariffs would target only a limited part of a country's economy energy-intensive exports and would impose a penalty smaller than the value of noncompliance. Regardless of their efficacy, many object to unilateral sanctions on legal grounds. They argue that punitive sanctions would violate global trade rules.

More controversially, some also argue that border adjustment tariffs, done unilaterally, would violate WTO rules.

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Either of these options, they contend, would not only cause harm to global trade, but also poison the political environment for international climate negotiations and cooperation. Most agree, though, that multilateral sanctions, if made part of an international climate agreement, could be designed to withstand WTO scrutiny.

Developed countries have pledged to provide this assistance to developing countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change and achieve their own emissions reduction targets. Though the opening of a physical headquarters was a welcome first step, it remained difficult to determine whether contributions to date by developed countries were genuinely "additional" allocations to this effort, or simply reapportionment of previously allocated financial resources. Longstanding disagreements between industrialized and developing countries continued to obstruct efforts to reach consensus on international emissions reduction targets.

Still, the establishment of the Warsaw Mechanism for Loss and Damage was a sign of progress. This mechanism may mobilize support for overcoming these disagreements between industrialized and developing countries by providing a substantive means for the former to render assistance to the latter for adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The report articulated a target threshold of one million metric tons for the planet's human population in order to impede global warming in excess of 3.

If warming exceeds that temperature, the panel warned of perilous consequences across the entirety of the climate system. Remarkably, the IPCC estimates the remainder of this "carbon budget" will be completely expended by the year Indeed, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration of the United States earlier the same year logged measurements that indicated atmospheric carbon dioxide had reached an average daily level in excess of parts per million—a level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is not believed to have been reached in the preceding three million years.

A survey has found that 97 percent of scientific studies on climate change conclude human activity, due to the consumption of fossil fuels, is causing global warming. The survey, published in Environmental Research Letters, examined the work of nearly 12, peer-reviewed research papers published over the last two decades. Of these, over 4, papers took a position on the causes of climate change, of which 0.

A further 2. The Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol struck an agreement with the Chinese government on the elimination of the industrial production of ozone-depleting substances ODS. Beijing also agreed to retire any surplus capacity of HCFCs that is not currently in use.

A Government Climate Study Contradicts the President | WIRED

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of HCFCs. Since ratification of the Montreal Protocol in , state parties have eliminated ninety-seven percent of ODS, and HCFCs represent one of the last remaining sources of ozone pollution that the Protocol aims to curb. On April 22, the State of California officially linked its cap-and-trade program with a similar scheme in Quebec province.

Established in under a landmark global warming law AB 32 , California's program places a price on carbon emissions and allows companies to buy and sell carbon credits issued at state auctions. Under the merger , which formally begins on January 1, , California businesses will be able to use Quebec's permits and California's permits will be valid in Quebec. The multi-faceted threats posed by climate change demand policies that address both mitigation and adaptation.

Operationally, this will require a variety of flexible partnerships among national, bilateral, and multilateral actors, and a combination of short-term and long-term strategies. These recommendations reflect the views of Stewart M. Patrick , director of the program on international institutions and global governance.

While the Durban Platform , approved by nearly two hundred countries in December , may have provided a small window of breathing room concerning the development of a successor accord to the Kyoto Protocol, much work remains to be done. In moving towards a post—Kyoto agreement due to come into force in , the international community should remain cognizant of certain trends that emerged during and immediately after the COP This, for one, includes acknowledging growing cracks among countries in the developing world regarding accepting binding emissions targets—an issue of critical concern to small island developing states in the Pacific and other areas.

These fissures should be explored as much as possible to both create a global consensus regarding the creation of major greenhouse gas emissions targets and to isolate intransigent countries. Second, the global financial crisis cannot become a catch-all excuse to avoid meeting pledges for global climate change finance mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund. Importantly, the narrative among developed economies must change because waiting to act will be substantially more costly than action now. Third, the international community must not let its existing accomplishments on climate change—such as the Kyoto Protocol itself—fall by the wayside as it struggles to develop new alternatives for a comprehensive climate change accord.

Canada's December decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol should be interpreted as a crystal clear warning that the agreement is increasingly at risk of unraveling. As a result, countries such as the United States, China, and India need to place a fresh emphasis on their commitments to combat climate change, including providing clear, reasonable, and practical indications as to their expectations for a post-Kyoto accord.

Even though the Durban Platform's call for a accord—which would apply both to developed and developing states—with "legal force" does not necessarily imply "legally binding," the time for big emitters like the United States to simply stay the course on climate change has expired. Some have argued that too many nonadditional projects those that would have reduced emissions even without the CDM have been approved; others argue that the project approval process is too stringent. And others have argued that because it has no legal life beyond Kyoto, it will fail to bring about lasting results.

These criticisms have on various occasions been right. Scrapping the CDM entirely is not likely to be politically feasible, especially considering the COP decision to extend the Kyoto Protocol for at least another five years. Reforming the CDM will thus be necessary to ensure that money is not wasted and that large volumes of offset credits remain available.

The international community should reform CDM to focus on the least developed countries and on activities that are unquestionably additional. It should focus on sector-based trading for other countries. This could allow crediting for sectors that beat aggressive preset baselines, without penalizing them for exceeding those baselines.

Ideally, the CDM bureaucracy could be substantially reduced if CDM governance were shifted more to the countries providing funds. The recent announcement of a year-long CDM reform consultation process as well as the decision during the COP in Durban to formally include carbon capture storage projects under the CDM are significant first steps. However, both must be followed by firm policy action to keep the CDM relevant and economically sustainable. The failure to pass comprehensive U.

Cutting U. There, the United States faced nearly universal criticism for not showing the leadership necessary to address climate change. While a cap-and-trade system remains ideal, deep cuts in U. Effort to reach consensus on these solutions should be pursued in the short term, keeping in mind that a broad-based and economy-wide price on carbon is essential to driving the very deep emissions cuts that will be needed through and beyond at a reasonable economic cost. Facing a divided Congress and significant pressure to reduce the federal deficit, President Obama seems to have limited options with regard to advancing an effective domestic climate change policy; nonetheless the picture is far from hopeless.

One way for Obama to force progress is to issue more executive orders and administrative rulemakings to partially substitute for Congressional opposition to his climate and energy agenda. Working through the EPA and the Clean Air Act, he could enact tougher rules that would cut carbon pollution from power plants and mitigate the potential effects of the failure to enact a national cap-and-trade program. An agreement reached with the auto industry in July to double fuel standards to fifty-four miles per gallon by is also a step in the right direction, provided that its stipulations are enforced.

Other significant measures the administration can take include government procurement of renewable energy and energy-efficient products and services, and reductions in subsidies for fossil fuel-related research and extraction. Perhaps one of the most significant steps President Obama can take towards realizing his climate change policy is to strike a deal with China to reduce global emissions of CO2. The two nations combined account for 40 percent of the world's carbon pollution, so a bilateral agreement could mollify Obama's opponents in Congress and encourage other nations to follow suit.

In the longer term, the United States and its international partners should consider the following steps:. Countries will not make strong efforts to reduce emissions unless they are confident that others are playing their part. Nor will wealthier countries provide financial or technological assistance to poorer counterparts unless they are confident that the efforts they support will actually be implemented. This demands robust institutional capacity to verify that countries are making the cuts and investing in the emissions-cutting actions that they claim to be.

The precise approach to this could take multiple forms , with the task falling primarily to the international level at one extreme, and domestic institutions at the other. At a minimum, an international institution will need to aggregate national-level reporting; this might usefully happen under the aegis of the UNFCCC. Institutions that support global economic development have a large potential role in promoting low-carbon growth and adaptation to climate change. The World Bank , along with the regional development banks, has unique capacity to mobilize large amounts of capital for the sorts of investments that will be needed in low-carbon infrastructure.

Several UN organizations, such as the United Nations Development Program and United Nations Environment Program , lack the ability to handle such large infrastructure projects but can play a major role in building relevant capacity in developing countries. All these organizations would benefit from both clear strategies for supporting climate action and increased related funding. They might also, more controversially, consider promoting policy shifts through conditionality on their assistance.