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United States, developing countries, and climate protection

Leadership or stalemate?

Explores U.S. position on developing countries in climate protection efforts. Concludes that climate protection requires the initial leadership of a few countries that bear historical responsibility for the problem and have considerable capability to act.

Executive Summary

The authors explore the United States' position on developing countries in climate protection efforts.

  • Over the long term, most countries, including developing ones, will need to do more to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • To get the ball rolling in the near term, however, climate protection will require the initial leadership of a few countries that bear historical responsibility for the problem and that have considerable capability to act. Such leadership would create the conditions for a dialogue among all countries on the timing, conditions, and circumstances for more formal involvement of key developing countries.

The U.S. has sought one set of objectives on climate change -- developing country commitments -- while at the same time financing billions of dollars worth of carbon-intensive investment in those countries.

The U.S. has a critical role to play internationally. In cooperation with other industrialized countries, the United States can usher in a new era of cooperation on climate protection with the following steps:

  • Recognize and build on climate-friendly policies already being undertaken in developing countries.
  • Foster technical cooperation programs to assist poor countries in adapting to climate change and reducing emissions.
  • Promote climate protection in developing countries that is supportive of economic and social development.
  • Create an open dialogue on the criteria for more formal developing country involvement.

Finally, the U.S. should attend to curbing its own prodigious output of greenhouse gases.

  • This is not only a prerequisite for protecting the global climate, it is a catalyst for other countries to do more.
  • It offers U.S. companies an opportunity to gain a competitive edge in new markets for clean technologies.

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