More on the Paris Agreement’s MO

FullSizeRender (1)Yesterday I recommended several COP21 summaries, all of which describe the form and function of the new climate change agreement slated for a 2020 entry into force.  I noted Professor Doelle’s use of the political science framing of a “managerial approach” to international relations.

Today I offer another, similar way (I think) of putting the form and function of the new agreement into a theoretical context.  Professor Cary Coglianese analogizes it to the US domestic regulatory approach called “management-based regulation” in a post on RegBlog.  As compared to performance-based regulation, which requires specific outcomes, and means-based regulation, which mandates specific technology or design changes, management-based regulation simply directs regulated businesses to do reflective planning, report on implementation progress, and show continuous improvement (commonly called a “plan-do-check-adjust” cycle).  Coglianese notes that US national and local governments have applied this approach to food safety, workplace accidents, and toxic pollution, with many short-term gains to show.  The downside is that once the easy wins have been had, somewhere around year 6, it’s harder for self-regulation to realize the longer-term benefits that come from communal regulation.

So what does this mean for the Paris Agreement and the broader, Apres COP title of my post yesterday?FullSizeRender (3)

1.  Taking a lesson from the domestic studies, we should make hay while the sun shines.  Or as Bill McKibben puts it in this Guardian editorial, “the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?” We can build on the short-term benies of the INDCs — a 2015 practice run of the new agreement’s architecture that the Parties imposed on themselves at COP20 — by holding our individual governments to do more, per the Climate Action Tracker’s assessment of underperformance.  We can do a full court press from now until the global 2018 review mandated in the COP21 decision, to make it that much politically easier to up our NDC antes.  In the US, there are so many opportunities for individuals to do so via non-governmental activism like fossil fuel divestment, lifestyle/consumption decisions, and political support for municipal and regional plans that are already increasing energy efficiency, renewable energy, building code, and transportation standards.

2.  We can continue to share best practices and learn from countries that are ahead on the learning curve.  EU countries provide a wide array of lessons, given the regional organization’s choice to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.  (Think Germany and the hard work of bringing renewables into the grid.) China’s ability to experiment with new climate change policies will provide examples of what to do –  and not.  (Fewer democratic slow downs to central government action means quicker results.) Middle income developing countries in South and Central America are nimbly recalibrating the weighted average of environment and economy in sustainable development. (Did you note Brazil’s absolute economy-wide contribution?) The FullSizeRender (5)COP21 decision already calls for more pre-2020 TEP or technical examination process, but there’s nothing to stop voluntary “climate clubs” from sharing outside the UNFCCC.

3. We can support, remind, press, … President Hollande of his COP21 promise made in his closing speech to lead a coalition of governments seeking to establish a global carbon price. By starting this hard work now, after the opening pistol, we’ll be better prepared to act more boldly as the six-year honeymoon period wears off.  Hopefully, this early work on the tougher solutions will help us avoid the plateauing problem inherent in management-based regulation.

Want some more next steps?  Read here for Climate Home’s calendar.