America never ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and it doesn’t want the rest of the world ever signing anything like it again.
As world climate delegates try (not very successfully, mind you) to thrash out a new agreement to replace the protocol, which expired last year, the U.S. is pushing a very different approach to reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: international peer pressure.
Instead of agreeing to a set of emissions goals, America wants each country to set its own targets — in the hopes that the glare of the international community will encourage governments to make those targets meaningful. America’s goal appears to be to agree to not agree.
The proposal that a global climate deal by 2015 should be based on national “contributions” gained traction at last week’s round of UN talks in Germany, although China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, said it wanted far more binding commitments by wealthy countries.
In the first public US statements on the plan, Todd Stern, the US State Department’s special envoy on climate change, told reporters on Tuesday that the US approach was designed to bring as many countries as possible to the table through a form of peer pressure and break the impasse over a successor to the 1997 Kyoto protocol.
“Countries, knowing that they will be subject to the scrutiny of everybody else, will be urged to put something down they feel they can defend and that they feel is strong,” Stern said from Berlin during a summit of environmental ministers focused on ways to advance the UN climate talks. …
Stern said that having each country’s plans and targets “in an environment of intense public interest” may encourage countries to step up their existing plans.
Peer pressure often takes hold in the playground. Given that delegates have been squabbling and dithering like children as they try to reach a worldwide plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, I guess the hope is that it will work here too.