Handbook on Energy and Climate Change
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Handbook on Energy and Climate Change

Edited by Roger Fouquet

This timely Handbook reviews many key issues in the economics of energy and climate change, raising new questions and offering solutions that might help to minimize the threat of energy-induced climate change.
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Chapter 13: International cooperation on climate change: why is there so little progress?

Bjart Holtsmark


It is more than two decades since the problem of climate change became a major item on the political agenda. According to the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the potentially dangerous and irreversible consequences of the rapidly rising atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases have become no less urgent over the years (IPCC, 2007). Nevertheless, little is being done to limit emissions at present, at least in comparison with the deep cuts recommended by IPCC (2007). What action is being taken is largely cosmetic, more likely to give people a clear conscience than make a real difference. The price of carbon on the EU market has for example slumped to very low levels, and the national quotas under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol were far too generous (Böhringer, 2002; Wara and Victor, 2008). In any case, the Kyoto Protocol regulated less than 30 per cent of global emissions, and the planned second commitment period will involve fewer countries and a correspondingly smaller share of global emissions, probably around 15 per cent. Moreover, negotiations on establishing a more effective, comprehensive agreement to follow on have shown little progress in recent years. The USA is not intending to sign up to a new agreement unless leading developing countries like India and China do so. India and China, for their part, pointed to the far higher per capita emissions in the developed countries. They were also emitting substantial quantities of greenhouse gases long before developing countries.

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