Climate change and its potentially serious consequences for our planet first appeared on the agenda of major international negotiations at the Rio Summit in 1992. Arduous negotiation ensued, culminating in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which set quantified targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 2012. Since then, the configuration of the highly complex negotiations (on account of the large number of participants and disparity of economic situations) has changed a great deal, as could be seen at the Copenhagen conference of December 2009 and, more recently, the agreement struck at Cancún in late 2010.
Anaïs Delbosc and Christian de Perthuis, close observers of climate-related economic issues, sum up the state of international climate negotiation in this article. Where have we got to? How have the discussions developed? What are the points of agreement and disagreement? What economic mechanisms have been put in place and so on? After reviewing the history, Delbosc and de Perthuis outline the Cancún agreement, before looking in more detail at a “variable geometry system of commitment”. They show, in particular, how difficult it is to compare the commitments made by the various parties to the negotiations. However, they do stress that the developed countries are, in general, falling short of the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They go on to formulate a number of proposals designed to take the commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions further, for example by strengthening and unifying the system of measurement and verification of how the various countries are meeting the targets to which they have committed themselves, while nonetheless taking account of their varying situations. Lastly, they propose a more efficient use of the various existing economic instruments, and go on to remind us of the weaknesses that were not resolved by the Cancún agreement, which the Durban Conference, scheduled for late 2011, will have to strive to overcome.