- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Climate Change Agreement Takes Center Stage

| Fall/Winter 2014 - 15

The international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to be determined in Paris in December 2015 is “the greatest opportunity the world has had in 20 years to make meaningful progress on this exceptionally challenging issue,” Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (HPCA) Director Robert Stavins said in a Boston Globe op-ed in September. Stavins was in New York City during the week of the United Nations Climate Summit, which included numerous side events and a march that attracted several hundred thousand Americans calling for serious climate actions.

During the Summit week, Stavins hosted a symposium at the Harvard Club of New York City, in collaboration with the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), to discuss a new study by HPCA suggesting ways the 2015 Paris Agreement can cut carbon emissions by supporting a global climate market.  The next agreement, Stavins says, should be flexible enough for countries to develop their own plans. A good way to offer this flexibility, he says, is through “linkage.”

Linkage, described in detail in HPCA’s new study, Facilitating Linkage of Heterogeneous Regional, National, and Sub-National Climate Policies Through a Future International Agreement, consists of connections among cap-and-trade, carbon tax, and other systems that allow emission reduction efforts to be redistributed across systems. There is interest in linkage, Stavins says, because it can achieve significant cost savings and improve the functioning of individual markets while also allowing for the achievement of the UNFCCC’s “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The new agreement, according to Stavins, should require a common definition of key terms as well as registries and tracking, but with flexibility in requirements to allow specific rules to evolve with experience. A key principle in developing the agreement, he says, is “Do No Harm.” If poorly designed, the new agreement could inhibit effective linkage and positive results.

The complete report will be released before this year’s annual international meeting on climate change set for December in Peru.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Wilke, Sharon. Climate Change Agreement Takes Center Stage.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2014 - 15).

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Robert N. Stavins