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Research More Flexible, Creative Solutions

5) Research More Flexible, Creative Solutions: Countries pledge actions, not targets, to reduce emissions, and support flexibility, research and development.

Scott Barrett, Johns Hopkins University

Summary: Scott Barrett offers a multi-pronged policy approach to address global climate change. He calls for pledges of “appropriate measures” such as emission mitigation actions with subsequent multilateral reviews. Such a pledge and review system would not carry binding consequences for non-compliance, but instead rely on moral suasion and naming and shaming in the international arena. To promote the development and deployment of climate-friendly technologies, Barrett recommends an R&D protocol coupled with a technology standards protocol. In the R&D agreement, countries would contribute funds to a coordinated international R&D program. After the development of new technologies through this R&D program, their deployment would be mandated through international technology standards. International negotiations among at least the largest economies would determine specific technologies that would need to be employed in specific industries. Rich countries should also finance technology transfer to developing countries. Barrett proposes more substantial adaptation assistance for developing countries. The adaptation program should focus on the investment of global public goods for development, such as investments in malaria prevention and control. He also advocates for R&D in various geo-engineering responses as an insurance policy.

Pros: The suite of policy measures advanced by Barrett aim to mitigate the risks of climate change through emission mitigation, adaptation, and geo-engineering. The marginal cost of mitigating climate change risks could be equilibriated among these three types of interventions and lower the cost of a climate change policy relative to a Kyoto-like emission mitigation agreement. Mandating technology standards could yield adoption of climate-friendly technologies through a “tipping treaty” effect – so long as enough countries coordinate on adoption of a given technology, then it will become the de facto world standard. This would effectively secure emission mitigation in countries that would not otherwise take on a quantitative emission commitment.

Cons: Several components of this proposal require developed countries to finance R&D, technology transfer for developing countries, and adaptation assistance. There may not be incentives for these governments to appropriate sufficient funds for these efforts. The technology standards protocol may be difficult to implement through international negotiations on specific technology mandates in specific industries. It may also be much more costly to impose uniform standards across all sources within an industry, relative to more cost-effective cap-and-trade or tax proposals. While geo-engineering may be considered a complimentary, insurance-like measure, some may perceive it instead as a substitute for emission mitigation.

1) For Fairness, Use Formulas: Use a mathematical formula -- not negotiations about targets -- to set binding emissions standards for each country based on factors like historical & current emissions, GDP, and population. Jeffrey Frankel, Harvard University (U.S.)
2) Make Kyoto Stronger: Expand the idea of binding, country-specific emissions targets that let developing countries “graduate” to stricter standards as their economies develop. Axel Michaelowa, Perspectives Climate Change (Germany)
3) Create ‘Climate Clubs’: Only the major-player countries need to negotiate, in small regional groups, and meeting their goals through emissions trading. David G. Victor, Stanford University
4) Let Countries Handle It: Allow domestic (but not international) emissions trading, and let countries set their own national limits on emissions. Warwick J. McKibbin, Australian National University and Peter J. Wilcoxen, Syracuse University
5) Research More Flexible, Creative Solutions: Countries pledge actions, not targets, to reduce emissions, and support flexibility, research and development. Scott Barrett, Johns Hopkins University (U.S.)
6) Be Realistic: Ask countries to pledge what they can with strong domestic support, then rely on public shaming to keep them on track. William A. Pizer, Resources for the Future (U.S.)

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