With the approach of 2012, and the expiration of the initial greenhouse gas targets under the Kyoto Protocol, governments are grappling with how best to advance the international climate effort in the years beyond. The central challenge is as clear as it is formidable: fashioning an international framework ensuring that all of the world's major economies contribute equitably and effectively to the global climate effort.
One way of characterizing the many different proposals put forward by governments, experts, and advocates is in terms of where they fall along a certain continuum: Towards one end are so-called “bottom-up” approaches, which envision the international effort as an aggregation of nationally defined programs put forward by countries on a strictly voluntary basis. At the other end are “top-down” approaches, in which governments negotiate explicit and binding international commitments that in turn shape and drive national policies.
This paper suggests a middle course, one that seeks to introduce “bottom-up” flexibility while retaining the cohesion and reciprocity of “top-down.” We call this an integrated multi-track approach. In this approach, all major economies enter into commitments aimed at reducing or moderating their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the type of commitment varies. For example, some countries have binding economy-wide emission targets, as under Kyoto, while others commit to implement national policies such as efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, or measures to reduce deforestation.3 Some, in addition, could participate in sectoral agreements on targets, standards, or other measures addressing emissions from particular sectors.
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