Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Beyond Kyoto: Dilemmas of Climate Regulation and Equity

Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Beyond Kyoto: Dilemmas of Climate Regulation and Equity

Article excerpt

This panel was convened at 9:00 AM on Thursday, April 10, by its chair, Daniel Bodansky of the University of Georgia School of Law, who introduced the panelists: Erik Haites of Margaree Consultants; Christiana Figueres of the Bureau of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and David Hunter of American University Washington College of Law. An edited transcript of their remarks follows.


During the past year, climate change has catapulted into the top tier of international issues. A number of factors I think are responsible for this. Let me mention just two: first, the growing scientific consensus about the magnitude of the climate change problem, reflected in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); second, the awarding of the Nobel Prize to the IPCC and to Al Gore last year.

On January 1, 2008, the Kyoto Protocors first commitment period began, which limits emissions from developed countries by certain specified amounts. Partly in anticipation of this event, an international market in carbon credits has developed in the past few years, worth billions of dollars.

But despite these positive developments, the international climate change regime faces at least two critical challenges. First, the Kyoto Protocol's emissions targets cover less than 1/3 of global emissions, due to the rejection of the Protocol by the United States and the fact that Kyoto covers emissions only from developed countries, not from rapidly growing developing countries like China and India. Second, the Kyoto Protocol's emissions target run for only five years, from 2008 until 2012; after that, Kyoto does not impose any specific limitations on emissions of either developed or developing countries.

These two problems have focused international attention on what to do in the post-2012 period, after the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period runs out. Should the Protocol's basic approach be extended in a new commitment period? Should there be a new round of quantified absolute national emission targets? Or should the climate change regime take a different approach going forward? And how can its coverage be extended to all of the major economies in the world--all of the major emitters including, in particular, the United States, China and India.

The most recent Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention in Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Bali, Indonesia, last December, and adopted the Bali Action Plan, which launches a comprehensive process to address the post-2012 period. The Bali Action Plan, in my view, represents an important step forward in at least two respects. First, the United States agreed to negotiate a new round of commitments--a significant shift by the Bush Administration. Second, developing countries agreed to discuss additional actions they could take that would be measurable, reportable, and verifiable. The Bali Action Plan negotiations were launched last week in Bangkok, and Erik Haites, one of our panelists, was there. Three additional rounds of negotiations are planned this year, and the negotiations are scheduled to conclude at the Copenhagen conference of the parties in December 2009 (although I think that is quite an ambitious schedule).

A multitude of ideas have been proposed about how to proceed in the negotiations. With us here today to discuss these issues are three very distinguished panelists: Erik Haites, Christiana Figueres and David Hunter.

* Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, The University of Georgia School of Law.


The fundamental challenge in getting a post-2012 agreement is getting an agreement that includes both the United States and China together. The United States and China represent 50 percent of global emissions, so any agreement that does not include both of them is far less effective than an agreement that has them included. …

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