Campus & Community

Workshop focuses on next steps after Kyoto Protocol

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Looking ahead to world after 2012

What happens when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period comes to an end after 2012? Twenty-five leading scholars, including economists, political scientists, legal scholars, and natural scientists, recently asked – and tried to answer – that question, examining alternative international strategies to address the pressing problem of global climate change after 2012.

The Environmental Economics Program at Harvard University (EEPHU) hosted this international workshop titled “Architectures for Agreement: Addressing Global Climate Change in the Post-Kyoto World” (May 12-13). The workshop was organized by Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and EEPHU director.

Stavins described the fundamental purpose of the workshop: “Economists and other scholars – particularly from the United States – have been critical of the Kyoto Protocol, noting that because of its specific deficiencies it will be ineffective for the problem, and relatively costly for the little it accomplishes. Some others have been more supportive of the protocol, noting that it is essentially the ‘only game in town.’ But both sides agree that whether this first step is good or bad, a second step is required. Given the global … nature of the climate change problem, a central element of that second step will most likely be an international agreement. And the basic shape and structure of that agreement – its architecture – was the focus of the workshop, and will be the central theme of a related book we are now producing.”

The workshop continued at the Kennedy School, with six policy proposals to address the problem of global climate change. The proposals fell into one of three categories of international policy architectures: targets and timetables, harmonized domestic policies, and coordinated and unilateral policies. Presentations by the six proposal authors – Jeffrey Frankel of the Kennedy School, Axel Michaelowa of the Hamburg Institute of International Affairs, David Victor of Stanford University, Peter Wilcoxen of Syracuse University, Scott Barrett of Johns Hopkins University, and William Pizer of Resources for the Future – preceded a set of 12 formal responses. The goal of the workshop was not consensus, but rather an examination of the merits and potential pitfalls of each of the six proposed architectures in order to inform subsequent policy discussions.

At the end of the day, Thomas Schelling, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Political Economy Emeritus, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, and recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics, provided the workshop’s epilogue. He asked whether there has ever been an international agreement of the scale and nature that would be necessary to address climate change, and whether there has ever been a domestic political reorganization on the scale required. Schelling suggested two possible international precedents: the coalition of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union during World War II, and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following the war. He also cited the National Security Act of 1947 as the sole example of a massive domestic reorganization, which occurred in the wake of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. He argued that any viable climate change structure needs to adopt lessons from these experiences.

The Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government provided financial support for the workshop and for the subsequent book, respectively.

The book, scheduled to be published in spring 2007 by Cambridge University Press, will be co-edited by Stavins and Joseph Aldy, a fellow at Resources for the Future. The heart of the book will be six chapters detailing the proposed architectures of climate change agreements, together with two commentaries on each proposal, reflecting the active debates at the Harvard workshop. Schelling is writing the epilogue.