David Shorr: Instead of second-guessing the efforts of the mid-1990s, a more constructive approach is to focus on the things we know now versus 15-20 years ago. Regardless of whether it could be foreseen at the time, the Kyoto agreement didn’t induce the US, China or India to cut emissions -- by now a glaring problem. (Related Articles: Will Saudi Arabia Allow the U.S. Oil Boom? Interview with Chris Faulkner)
For Asia’s two big rising powers, this was intentional; Kyoto was a two-tiered system requiring GHG reductions from developed nations but not developing countries, which could actually sell their allotted pollution rights to the industrialized world. On the plus side, awareness in China and India that they must be part of the solution has grown in recent years. Both countries still put their highest priority on economic growth, but have committed to make that growth less carbon-intensive.
James Stafford: What SHOULD the strategy be for building momentum for countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
David Shorr: Rather than looking back at Kyoto, maybe the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference should serve as the key reference point. That meeting was significant in terms of broadly accepted principles as well as Chinese and Indian willingness to boost their commitment -- and the connection between the two. We’ve seen that Beijing and New Delhi are more amenable to a system of peer review for GHG reductions than a fully elaborated and codified treaty. And here in our own country, senate Republicans’ waning interest in the issue (or outright hostility) makes US ratification of any treaty uncertain at best.