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Environment

A Climate Treaty Analogue?

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Christina Larsen at Foreign Policy has a nifty silver lining take on the U.N. climate talks now underway in Cancun, Mexico. It boils down to the "absence of delusions" this time around, or more charitably, no expectations of any breakthrough agreement, much less any significant progress. More interestingly, Larsen considers

when, if ever, any similar treaty process to rein in emissions has worked. Granted, the rules aren't about to be rewritten in Mexico, but for those scratching their heads and looking outside the COP process, it's worth considering Montreal -- shorthand for the treaty that has successfully curbed emissions of substances that deplete the ozone layer was negotiated in Montreal in 1987. It's not only because he hails from Canada that David Keith, director of the University of Calgary's Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and a strong advocate for climate action, told me: "The Montreal Protocol on the ozone remains the best and also most optimistic model we have for what a future climate regime might look like."

In large part, she writes, this is because the

Montreal treaty talks only included about two-dozen top CFC emitters, and meetings took place with comparatively little external political hype.

As Larsen points out:

it's worth noting that the United States and China are responsible for roughly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, and together the top 20 emitters are responsible for roughly 80 percent of total emissions.

Thus, she quotes David Keith who extends the Montreal Protocol analogy to the current climate change stalemate:

The only plausible way of reducing emissions through a negotiated international framework is a deal that involves a relatively small number of big states, like China, the U.S. and the E.U.

This is not a new idea, but I'm curious what people think of it. UPDATE:

In contrast, Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests

the U.S. focus on everyone but China"”and in particular China's partners in the Basic climate-negotiating bloc: India, South Africa and Brazil. Indeed, that may be the best way to move Beijing.

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