The United States signed on to the most universally supported treaty on climate change, the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was designed to protect the world from the dangerous effects of climate change. Although the U.S. did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the next round of negotiations on a follow-up treaty are currently underway and the U.S. must consider how to re-engage in the international climate change process.
The impacts of climate change do not respect borders—all countries will experience the impacts. It is therefore in the interest of all nations to control greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, HFC refrigerants, and methane. It is also important for the U.S. and other wealthy countries to help emerging countries de-link rapid economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.
No single country can solve the climate change problem alone. As the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitter, U.S. participation and leadership is needed to achieve meaningful global action. The type of actions taken by other countries will be influenced by the level and type of commitments taken by the United States.
As the world’s technological powerhouse, the U.S. can offer innovative energy and technology solutions to help address the climate change problem. A clean energy technology revolution led by the U.S. will create opportunities for U.S. businesses in times of economic challenges, and a global climate change agreement would create new markets for U.S. products and energy solutions around the world.
Driven by increased energy consumption, China, India and Brazil are among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (see graph). By 2050, developing countries will account for around eight billion of the world’s projected nine billion people. An effective global climate change agreement will contribute to more sustainable development for billions of people.
There is a common misconception that emerging countries, including China—whose total greenhouse gas emissions are now beginning to mirror those of the U.S.—and India, are not concerned about climate change and are unwilling to curb their domestic emissions. In fact:
In 2012, the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol will be concluded. In the next two years a follow-on treaty will be negotiated. This process was started in earnest in Bali in 2007, with the agreement of the Bali Action Plan, and will conclude in Copenhagen in December 2009. The Bali Action Plan makes provisions for developing countries to take nationally-appropriate mitigation actions that will help advance their national development goals while addressing climate change. The Plan also adds that developed countries will provide technology, finance, and capacity to support their mitigation actions. Determining how these actions and support will be measured, reported and verified is a key part of the current negotiations.
Developing countries are seeking partnerships and assistance for climate change adaptation, mitigation, technology and financing. The UNFCCC already coordinates international action in these four key areas, making U.S. participation through this channel an easy option:
If the U.S. would release the $1.6 billion promised to the World Bank for clean technology development and adaptation programs, it would support developing countries in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. These funds could also help stimulate private sector investment and can be leveraged by businesses around the world. By taking advantage of technology development and partnership opportunities, the U.S. can recapture international leadership on clean technology development and production while helping emerging economies reduce their emissions.