January 19, 2010

Read This Now: "A Post-Copenhagen Pathway" by CSIS’s Sarah Ladislaw

CSIS Senior Fellow and energy über-analyst Sarah Ladislaw released a short policy paper last week, “A Post-Copenhagen Pathway.”  (Our colleague Dan covered CSIS’s related event, “Post Copenhagen Outlook” with Jonathan Pershing, for the blog last week.)

She breaks down the basics of the Copenhagen agreement’s agreed-to measures into about three pages. Next she explores the institutional barriers to a global agreement through the UN, including this morsel:

…the inclusive role of the UN process, which is excellent for giving a voice to all sorts of causes and considerations that deserve recognition and global attention, only serve to exacerbate the differences between developed and developing countries and raise expectations for an agreement to such a large extent that the perfect really becomes the enemy of the good. The management of the UN process has to be responsive to all of these outside concerns and promote transparency and fairness in the process, which makes leading effective negotiations nearly impossible. All of these challenges would be surmountable if it was clear that the vast majority of countries were really willing to compromise and move forward. The Copenhagen meeting, however, indicates that this is not necessarily the case.

Later, she outlines three possible futures for the process set out for this cycle of climate change negotiations: “Brazil, India, China and South Africa… decide to hold-fast with the developing country block in the UN and insist negotiations continue to take place under the UN process as planned”; “Support for the UN process wanes and major emitters choose another venue for working together”; or “Fragmented multilateralism prevails.”

Ladislaw emphasizes that the United States is not about to completely give up on climate negotiations through the UN, but does a great job of explaining the utility of the Major Economies Forum (MEF) and G20 for the purposes of emissions reductions negotiations.  One of the best parts of this paper is a great table on page 7 that charts G20 members, which are MEF members, and each country’s contribution to world greenhouse gas emissions, which gives you a clear picture of what possibilities might lie in those arenas.

The author also poses just the right question, and I’d dare to say just the right answer: “So which alternative forum is the right one? The most obvious answer is: the one in which the most major players are willing to negotiate” (italics mine). A toast to this pragmatic approach. I’m not an adherent to any single international relations approach, especially for confronting mega-challenges such as climate change. Results matter most. Ladislaw did the heavy lifting for us all on breaking down post-Copenhagen results and issues into 10 pages. Give it a read – you’ll be glad you did.