A national focus

Tglobehe work on the post-2020 agreement that took place in the ADP sessions this week signaled the bottom-up approach to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whereby individual countries will make commitments based on their national circumstances, rather than on a top-down internationally negotiated targets. Going forward, negotiators will have to draw on a nationally focused, facilitative, bottom-up approach to forge a more effective global agreement.

Adopted by UNFCCC parties in December 2011, the Durban Platform calls for “strengthening the multilateral, rules-based regime under the Convention.”  To that end, it launched a new round of negotiations aimed at developing “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” for the period from 2020 on. The negotiations are scheduled to conclude in 2015 in Paris. According to Daniel Bodansky,the forefront authority on climate change, the UNFCCC is like a constitution. For 2020, a facilitative, bottom up approach is envisioned, as the preferred route mentioned by Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Figueres: “The fundamental principle is to work at home.” A sentiment echoed by Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in his message to the YOUNGO’s: “I ask you not to forget your homework, and your homework is always at the national level.” Both statements were made at Thursday’s Intergenerational Inquiry side event. The emphasis on national action in the Kyoto Protocol is constructed around top-down, contractual elements. Although participation is crucial to the process, it is essential for those negotiators to carry home domestic agendas in addressing climate change. Nationally defined policies and measures such as energy efficiency are obligations of management rather than consequence. According to Bodansky in Climate Change: Top 10 Precepts for U.S. Foreign Policy,

“An initial emphasis on domestic action is also essential if the United States is to be successful in persuading other countries to act. To date, developing countries have been understandably reluctant to take action, arguing that the United States—as the world’s biggest emitter and richest country— should go first. Adoption of a strong U.S. domestic climate policy is a necessary (though not sufficient) precondition for achieving broader international participation.”

Going into the second week of negotiations, I’m curious to see the outcomes of nationally focused commitments and how they vary with each country.