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In global climate change fight, what can we learn from Kyoto?

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James Stafford: Can you take us through the international response to climate change and some of the positive and negative effects of a legally binding Kyoto follow-on treaty? 

David Shorr: The bottom line for climate change, and thus for any international agreement, is reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. How can levels of pollutants be cut to avoid the worst effects of climate change?  Like many problems in our interconnected world, it’s a matter of spurring nations to act on behalf of the common good -- to bear in mind not just national self-interests but also shared interests in averting climatic disruptions that would be bad for everyone.

So we should think of this challenge as trying to figure out what kinds of diplomatic frameworks will get all the key players to do their part in cutting GHGs. The debate over a legally binding successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is about the international regime within which efforts to reduce emissions will take place.

For some issues like limiting nuclear weapons, a binding treaty is absolutely the appropriate form for agreements. In this case, it isn’t quite as clear.  Will pushing for the strongest form of commitment prompt big polluters like the US, China, and India to cooperate or resist?  If we take any lessons from the experience since Kyoto, it’s that we need all those who cause the problem to contribute toward the solution.

James Stafford: Have there been any major policy missteps with Kyoto?

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