Bridging the divide in global climate policy – Strategies for enhanced participation and integration

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Courtesy of Lexxion Verlagsgesellschaft mbH

15 years after the climate conference in Rio de Janeiro, an international climate regime with clear structures has emerged.1 For several years, a rapidly growing carbon market has been a reality.2 At the same time, however, the recent Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)3 merely underscores what we already know: global warming is a serious and potentially devastating threat. Against that backdrop, the current climate regime hardly goes beyond the level of “symbolic policy”, a first tentative step towards facing the attendant challenges. With the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change rapidly approaching, attention is shifting towards its expiration date in 2012, and the ensuing period without binding emissions limitation and reduction commitments. At this important threshold, therefore, the international climate regime needs to be elaborated both decisively and in a way that does justice to the underlying threat. A crucial challenge in this process will be to include certain groups of states whose participation is essential for an effective solution of the climate crisis: the United States, traditionally the main contributor to current greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere, and countries with economies in transition such as China, India, or Brazil. In this article, an attempt is made to reproduce the current state of this discussion in a systematic manner. It starts out by focusing on the objectives and requirements guiding the reform efforts (I). In a second step, it will show that this discussion does not need to begin from scratch, but can draw on a solid basis with the established principles of international climate policy (II). These principles are joined by a confusing array of new proposals and negotiation strategies (III), both of a substantive (1) and a more formal nature (2). A focus of this article will rest on an issue that has been somewhat neglected in past scholarship: the interplay of the climate regime with other areas of international law (IV). Potential synergies are illustrated with a view to the relationship of the climate regime and the world trade regime.

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