Agreement must be reached as soon as possible in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations on a global framework of targets, commitments and initiatives to achieve the scientific community’s recommended goal of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases by mid-century at approximately 450 parts per million. But while such an agreement is absolutely necessary, it will not be sufficient to shift the major economies onto the desired low-carbon economic growth trajectory any time soon.
Transitioning to a low-carbon model of economic growth is arguably the biggest long-term challenge confronting economies. This transformation ultimately must be carried out by the private sector—business managers, investors, workers, and consumers. Moreover, the financial and technological assistance that developed countries committed to mobilize for developing countries as part of the Kyoto Accord largely failed to materialize. As a result, the current round of climate negotiations has suffered from a lack of confidence on the part developing countries that new promises made by developed countries in this regard will be met.
Leaders must not only achieve an agreement on a top-down framework of global targets and national commitments in the U.N. negotiations that will culminate later year in Copenhagen. They must also create a set of bottom-up enabling institutions elsewhere in the international system to accelerate large-scale investment in low-carbon energy systems, technology development and cooperation, energy efficiency improvements, and widespread measurement and benchmarking in the private sector in both developed and developing countries. Only by incorporating both of these approaches will the new climate regime be able to shift the world economy onto the desired emissions trajectory.
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