Government climate change report calls for new institutions to curb global warming.
A report commissioned by the British government will call today for an overhaul of global institutions to combat climate change.
The report, to be published by the Centre on International Co-operation at New York University, recommends the creation of powerful surveillance and enforcement mechanisms similar to those of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The new institutions would ensure countries honour their commitments to cut carbon emissions.
“This implies a significant pooling of sovereignty, greater coercive powers at international level, and significant investment in surveillance and research,” the authors, Alex Evans and David Steven, write. They say that for any new climate deal to be effective, countries that do not join the international effort to curb global warming should face pariah status.
“It seems inevitable that a long-term climate deal will ultimately require an ‘all or nothing’ approach to international participation. Either countries play a full part in the system, or they sit outside the international system and are effectively barred from all forms of international co-operation,” they say. “Carbon default, in other words, would become as weighty an issue as sovereign default, or failure to comply with a security council resolution. That this should currently seem inconceivable indicates the extent of the shift in understanding that is still needed.”
The Kyoto accord on global climate change has weak enforcement mechanisms and involved very little institutional change. Kyoto is due to expire in 2012, and summit negotiations on a successor treaty take place in Copenhagen in December.
The report, An Institutional Architecture for Climate Change, was commissioned by the Department for International Development. It does not necessarily represent the department’s views, a Dfid spokesman said, but was a starting point for a necessary debate at the Copenhagen conference. “This report highlights many of the issues that will be on the table for discussion at the Copenhagen summit in December,” the spokesman said.
“Copenhagen represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set climate goals that avoid dangerous temperature rises and it is vital that we ensure effective reform of global institutions as part of this.”
The report warns that a long-term solution to global warming could be delayed if a deal in Copenhagen falls foul of wholesale cheating, exploitation by corrupt officials and rigging of carbon markets – tainting the climate change effort.
Bickering over burden-sharing, overseen by toothless institutions would waste effort and distract attention from the looming threat of catastrophic change.
The report suggests that a transparent formula, or algorithm, would have to be agreed which would distribute the burden of restructuring economies. A new body would be created, the International Climate Control Committee, with a robust surveillance mandate to report on, among other things, national performance in reducing emissions.
There would also have to be a new institution with an enforcement role and the capacity to make intrusive inspections, measuring emissions, in the same way that inspectors from the IAEA now oversee nuclear facilities.
The role of the World Trade Organisation would also have to be rethought, the report says, to take account of the carbon implications of international trade.
Such reform of international institutions is likely to be hugely controversial and bitterly fought out, but the authors say there is very little time left to get it right.
They estimate the world has less than a decade to limit global warming to less than two degrees, and “less time than that to design the institutions of the post-carbon age.”