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Edited by Peter Dauvergne
Chapter 5: Climate Regime Design, the Global Warming Potential, and Climate Risk Management
Tora Skodvin1 In the 2009 Copenhagen Accord the international political community agreed that “deep cuts in global emissions are required … with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius” (Art. 2). Given the failure, on the part of the international political community, to develop greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction plans that correspond to this goal, some might question the sincerity of state leaders in committing to this accord. This chapter, however, addresses another aspect of the 2˚C target: even if the signatories wanted to pursue the goal that they have agreed to, the current implementation framework for international climate policy would restrict their ability to do so. Under the Kyoto Protocol, parties can trade-off larger reductions in some GHGs against smaller reductions in others. The difficulty with this design is that the GHGs that are eligible for the trade-off have very different characteristics, particularly with regard to atmospheric lifetimes or adjustment times. At present, there is no single emissions metric that can adequately deal with this variation. Thus, the flexibility of the solution design model that currently guides international climate policy comes at the expense of the precision and specificity that are required to address climate impacts. This chapter first explains how the features of emissions metrics determine decision-makers’ ability to manage the risks associated with climate change. It then describes two potential means of dealing with the metrics problem: (i) developing alternative emissions metrics and (ii) developing...
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