Can an Effective Global Climate Treaty be Based on Sound Science, Rational Economics, and Pragmatic Politics?

20 Pages Posted: 21 May 2004  

Robert N. Stavins

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); Resources for the Future; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 5, 2004

Abstract

The Kyoto Protocol (1997) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) may come into force without U.S. participation, but its effects on climate change will be virtually non-existent. At the same time, the economic and scientific consensus points to the need for a credible international approach. A reasonable starting point is the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), which was signed by 161 nations and ratified by 50, including the United States, and entered into force in 1994. In this paper, I remain agnostic on the question of the Kyoto Protocol's viability. Some analysts see the agreement as deeply flawed, while others see it as an acceptable first step. But virtually everyone agrees that the Protocol is not sufficient to the overall challenge, and that further, subsequent steps will be required. This is my starting point for proposing a three-part policy architecture: first, all nations would be involved through the use of economic trigger mechanisms, plus growth targets; second, long-term targets would be required - in the short-term, firm, but moderate targets, and in the long-term, flexible, but much more stringent targets; and third, market-based policy instruments would be part of the package - emissions trading, carbon taxes, or hybrids of the two. This overall approach can be made to be scientifically sound, economically rational, and politically pragmatic.

Keywords: Global climate change, global warming, policy architecture, Kyoto Protocol

JEL Classification: Q54, Q58, Q48, Q39

Suggested Citation

Stavins, Robert N., Can an Effective Global Climate Treaty be Based on Sound Science, Rational Economics, and Pragmatic Politics? (May 5, 2004). KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-020; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 94. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=538943 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.538943

Robert N. Stavins (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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617-495-1820 (Phone)
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Resources for the Future

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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