International Agreements and Cooperation Examples: UNFCCC / Kyoto Protocol - Post-Kyoto / Post-2012

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The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol runs from 2008 to 2012.  Thus far, no successor agreement has been reached, despite admonishments that previous negotiating sessions (most recently, at Copenhagen in 2009) would be the ‘last chance’ to negotiate a successor in time to take effect in 2012 (and thus maintain continuity).

The primary issue for Kyoto’s successor is the relative burden-sharing between developed and developing countries.  The United States rejected Kyoto, but its participation in future agreements is all but required.  Yet the US has consistently argued that developing countries must undertake contemporaneous commitments to reduce emissions.  With China recently supplanting the US as the world’s largest emitter, the dialogue is increasingly shifting toward the amount (rather than whether) developing countries (especially large and growing ones like China, India, and Brazil) can and should contribute to the next round of international carbon reduction commitments.

Other issues include (1) the difficulty of negotiating a truly global agreement; (2) whether and in what manner existing agreements and frameworks—such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme—can and should be linked to Kyoto’s successor; (3) the effect of scientific and political uncertainty on the future of the international climate regime; (4) timing issues, namely the extent to which an agreement which is relatively demanding at earlier stages is more or less effective; and (5) the extent to which regional, sectoral, or other sub-global agreements can be a useful complement—or even replacement—for the current international framework.