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international climate policy

International Cooperation on Climate Change: What Can Other Regimes Teach Us?

Solving climate change is one of humankind’s greatest challenges. Caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels, which currently underpin most of modern society’s energy system, the solutions are economically, politically and socially complex. In addition, the problem’s transnational and transgenerational nature contributes further to the challenge of creating positive coalitions for change and forging agreements among nations to act now for benefits later.

Thus, it is not surprising that the international climate negotiations have moved slowly. Yet, the threat of climate change requires urgent action and creative thinking – in a field where new ideas are often immediately shot down due to one political sensitivity or another.

Returning to Rio to build a more sustainable future

This piece originally appeared in the Guardian Sustainable Business.

In 1992, heads of state converged on Rio for the Earth Summit, a bright moment that seemed to herald a new era for sustainable development. Bold speeches were given, important treaties signed. Saving the planet was cast as a moral imperative. Multilateral institutions would lead the way.

Twenty years later, the world looks much different. The unipolar system of U.S. domination that followed the end of the cold war is now multipolar. The locus of global growth and consumption has largely shifted to developing countries, especially in Asia. And for all the good intentions voiced in Rio, the health of our climate, water resources and ecosystems has been deteriorating at alarming rates.

Beyond Rhetoric at Rio+20 with the “Compendium of Commitments”

As world leaders prepare to converge on Rio in June for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), civil society groups around the world are making demands of their leaders. In India, a broad coalition of environment and development NGOs are decrying state-sanctioned violence during hearings for major projects. In Colombia, civil society groups are calling for training of judges who often don’t understand environmental law. These are just a few of the many governance demands made by NGOs in more than 30 countries associated with the Access Initiative (TAI).

But, how will leaders react? Many may come to Rio+20 with commitments, but how can we hold them accountable to fulfill these commitments?

Time to See Climate Action as Pro-Growth

This piece was co-authored with Vinod Thomas, Director General of independent evaluation at the Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in the South China Morning Post.

China, South Korea, Russia, the United States and two dozen others face potential leadership transitions this year. The prospect for economic growth and prosperity is likely to be the central determinant of these events. Not on the agenda, however, is climate change. Yet, it should be - because our growing understanding of its science and economics warns us that people's welfare hinges on it.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere continue to climb at alarming rates. Temperatures are breaking records around the globe. The just-released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes a link between more intense rainfall and more extreme temperatures with man-made climate change.

Making the Most of a Second Chance: What Next for REDD+ Safeguards?

This piece was written with Gaia Larsen and Crystal Davis.

This spring, Parties to the UNFCCC must decide whether or not to continue discussions on the REDD+ safeguard information system (SIS) guidance that started in Durban. In particular, Parties have the option of developing further guidance related to the “transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the information” in the SIS. Parties may not wish to reopen this discussion given the many topics that still need to be addressed to make REDD+ operational, but not re-opening the discussion may be a missed opportunity for REDD+ countries seeking to improve the effectiveness of the implementation of the REDD+ safeguards. In order for these conversations to move forward, Parties may wish to have informal discussions next week during the REDD+ Partnership meeting in London.

National Adaptive Capacity Framework Helps Countries Get Ready for Climate Change

This week, WRI released a new report summarizing assessments of institutional readiness for adapting to climate change. The report, Ready or Not, focuses on pilot applications of the National Adaptive Capacity (NAC) framework in three countries: Bolivia, Ireland, and Nepal. Co-authors Heather McGray and Aarjan Dixit respond to questions about the NAC framework, which provided the analytic basis for this report.

Transparency and Accountability (MRV) in the Durban Climate Deal

The Durban climate deal reached in December 2011 marked an important milestone in the design of a system to measure, report, and verify (MRV) countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their actions to reduce them. The deal succeeded in making the MRV system operational. However, the text still falls short on several important issues that WRI outlined before the meeting. In this post, we review the main MRV elements of the Durban deal.

Ambition in the Durban Climate Deal

The UNFCCC’s ultimate goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a “level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Thus, the most compelling measure of success of the Durban climate negotiations is arguably its ability to secure an adequate level of collective ambition on the part of countries. In this post, we review how well the Durban decisions can help reach this goal.

The Role Of Cities In Meeting China’s Carbon Intensity Goal

Part 3: Methodologies and Analytical Tools for Low-carbon City Planning

This piece was written in collaboration with Cui Xueqin, Fu Sha, and Zou Ji.

In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presented low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 explored some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 presents different tools to address these challenges.

The Program of Energy and Climate Economics (PECE) at Renmin University of China has developed a toolkit for low carbon city planning based on its experience working at the city level. These analytical tools have been employed in the Asian Development Bank Qingdao Low Carbon City Project (mentioned in part 2 of this series), and are described below.

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