Kennedy School climate change group presents proposals for United Nations action

By ATHENA Y. JIANG | The Harvard Crimson

The Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements at the Harvard Kennedy School released four proposals yesterday on how best to address climate change—ranging from the adjustment of international emissions standards to market-based solutions—to bring to the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The proposals include a plan to tax nations based on their carbon emissions, two versions of an international cap-and-trade system, and the idea of abandoning one over-arching international climate accord in favor of a system of more specific agreements.

The convention will meet in Poland next week, on the 14th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, to discuss ways to address climate change after the landmark treaty expires in 2012.

The recommendations were put together in collaboration with researchers from 28 teams worldwide working in conjunction with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The policy group declined to endorse one of the four proposals, however, writing that “the decision to adopt a particular [policy] architecture is ultimately a political one that must be reached by the nations of the world.”

“Each of the proposals looks different to the various countries in terms of its merits,” said Kennedy School Professor Robert N. Stavins, the co-director of the policy group. “We feel that we should provide information to the countries of the world to help them in their quest to design a post-Kyoto Protocol policy.”

Stavins said that the proposals were neither mutually exclusive nor even necessarily sufficient on their own. He advocated for the free market as a tool for controlling carbon emissions, but acknowledged that “tremendous political resistance” in developed countries could make market solutions difficult to implement.

Stavins also called for the increased exchange of ideas among different nations—as well as between academia and business—to generate new insights.
“This is a problem that is so great in terms of the challenges it presents—scientifically, economically, and most important politically, that no person and no institution has cornered the market on wisdom,” he said.

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