Speaking at the second week of the UN’s COP20 summit in Lima, Peru begins, Professor Lord Nicholas Stern advises conference parties not to insist that the Paris 2015 agreement be a legally binding international treaty. Nick Stern, a respected economist in the world of climate change, is president of the British Academy for the humanities and social sciences and chair of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, as well as I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Director of the Asia Research Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. According to Stern:
International agreements on climate change should be structured so as to facilitate the kind of collaboration needed to achieve mutual confidence and equitable access to sustainable development. They should be dynamic in the sense that countries’ ambitions for emissions reductions can be encouraged by, and captured in, international processes and in ways that promote increased ambition over time….
Some may fear that commitments that are not internationally legally binding may lack credibility. That, in my view, is a serious mistake. The sanctions available under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, were notionally legally binding but were simply not credible and failed to guarantee domestic implementation of commitments.
Instead, Stern suggests that the intergovernment discussions be founded on an understanding of four key elements:
The Paris agreement should explicitly acknowledge that the risks from unmanaged climate change are potentially immense and delay is dangerous. It should also recognize that the path to a low-carbon economy can be highly attractive, embodying strong and high-quality growth, investment and innovation, in the context of rapid global structural transformation. The agreement should be based on a shared commitment to creating equitable access to sustainable development. And it should be structured to facilitate dynamic and collaborative interactions between countries.
Lord Nicholas Stern sees promising signs in the joint announcement by the United States and China in Beijing in November 2014, and the EU’s adoption of a 2030 climate and energy package in October 2014. These commitments cover about half of the annual global emissions of greenhouse gases. Although important and substantive, they do not add up to an emissions path giving the world a reasonable chance of avoiding extremely dangerous global warming (more than 2 degrees centigrade). We need to raise our ambitions on emissions reductions, he concluded.
Nicholas Stern’s paper, “Growth, climate and collaboration: towards agreement in Paris 2015,” will be available shortly.
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