Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Copenhagen Matters

Some are ready to declare Copenhagen dead along with any kind of agreement that depends on long-term commitments by sovereign states. Our chances are better to act unilaterally with international collaboration wherever possible. But I think it is a mistake to see the choice as between successful binding agreements by nation states and unilateralism. What the Copenhagen process offers (and after all it does not need to be concluded this year to be a success), is a context in which parties can create incentives to encourage commitments being taken seriously in the context of a global economic system in which many sticks and carrots exist. The value of Copenhagen is threefold – it creates a framework that can be adjusted if and when our projections of what needs to be done prove to have been too optimistic. It also creates a standard which sets expectation for all parties unlike Kyoto. Finally, it offers a context in which unilateral action by nation states diminishes the risks of others worrying that they will lose out economically if they too act alone.

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