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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Jan/Feb 2004 : Headlines


Beyond Kyoto
Examining the core challenges in advancing international climate change efforts.

Among the common themes highlighted in the report’s overview chapter:

* While the climate challenge is ultimately one of mobilizing technology, it is in the first instance one of mustering political will, and some approaches to international action can better assist in that than others.

* Scientific and economic uncertainty is not a justification for inaction, but rather an
additional rationale for acting now.

* While climate change is a common challenge, countries will engage in collective action only if they perceive it to be in their interest. A multilateral approach must therefore recognize domestic concerns such as development and competitiveness.

* Bridging diverse national interests requires new mitigation strategies and a flexible architecture that can accommodate different types of commitments for different countries.

* Engaging actors beyond the climate circle is essential, both to build domestic support
for action and to extend the climate effort into non-climate forums such as trade and development.

An effective international response to global climate change requires a more flexible approach so that countries can take on different types of commitments best suited to their domestic circumstances, says a report released in early December 2003 by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The report, Beyond Kyoto: Advancing the International Effort Against Global Climate Change, is a compilation of six “think pieces” examining core issues in negotiating an effective long-term climate agreement. Topics include equity, cost, development, trade, commitments and a long-term climate target.

“We are at a critical stage in the international climate effort. Kyoto’s entry into force would be a major achievement, but only a start. On the other hand, if Kyoto doesn’t get off the ground, the international community must begin thinking right away about the alternatives,” said Pew Center president Eileen Claussen. “Either way, with or without Kyoto, we face the same challenge: engaging all the world’s major emitters—including the United States and the major developing countries—in a long-term effort that fairly and effectively mobilizes the resources and technology needed to protect the global climate. This new Pew Center report speaks to that challenge.”

The 170-page report was prepared by a dozen authors, most former climate negotiators, from developed and developing countries. Working drafts of the papers were broadly circulated earlier last year for review and comment and were the focus of international workshops convened by the Pew Center in China, Germany and Mexico. In all, more than 100 officials, experts and stakeholders from nearly three dozen countries contributed as authors, reviewers or workshop participants.

Papers explore critical issues in the climate negotiations and a range of options for addressing them, but do not advocate specific approaches. “Our aim at this stage is to facilitate constructive thinking and dialogue. So the report does not offer definitive conclusions or recommendations. But common themes emerge from the papers and the workshops and we believe these are well worth considering as we move toward the next stage of climate diplomacy,” said Claussen.

“One of the strongest themes to emerge in the papers and in our discussions is the need for greater flexibility so countries can take on the types of commitments best suited to their domestic circumstances,” she added. “The challenge is providing that flexibility while at the same time ensuring that national efforts are equitable and that the overall effort is sufficient.”

The six think pieces explore the following issues:
* “A Long-Term Target: Framing the Climate Effort” by Jonathan Pershing and Fernando Tudela examines the benefits and difficulties of establishing a more concrete long-term goal to guide and motivate climate action in the near- and medium-term. It argues that a host of uncertainties make the negotiation of a greenhouse gas concentration target extraordinarily difficult and that alternatives—such as an “activity-based” target or a non-binding hedging strategy—may be more practical.

* “Climate Commitments: Assessing the Options” by Daniel Bodansky identifies the key variables in designing mitigation commitments, offers criteria for evaluating different approaches, and discusses the merits of several leading alternatives. It argues that the wide variance in national circumstances makes a unitary approach impractical and unlikely, and that future efforts might need to allow for multiple approaches.

* “Equity and Climate: In Principle and Practice” by John Ashton and Xueman Wang explores the fundamental equity concerns that suffuse the climate debate and the challenges in arriving at a fair outcome. It argues that no single equity perspective or formula can be a basis for agreement, and that the goal instead must be a political package that achieves a rough qualitative balancing of competing equity claims. The authors suggest a set of outcomes that together could meet that test.

* “Addressing Cost: The Political Economy of Climate Change” by Joseph E. Aldy, Richard Baron and Laurence Tubiana examines the challenges of managing cost in future mitigation efforts. It identifies three critical cost dimensions that present themselves in negotiations—aggregate cost, relative cost and cost certainty—and assesses how effectively alternative mitigation approaches address each.

* “Development and Climate: Engaging Developing Countries” by Thomas C. Heller and P.R. Shukla explores how future climate efforts can help integrate climate concerns with the core development priorities of developing countries. It argues for a fundamental reorientation of climate policy to focus less on emission “outputs” and more on the underlying activities or “inputs” that drive them.

* “Trade and Climate: Potential Conflicts and Synergies” by Steve Charnovitz explores potential interactions between the international trade regime and climate policies at both the national and international levels. It identifies potential conflicts between the goals of climate protection and trade liberalization, possible measures to avert such conflicts, and ways the trade and climate regimes can be mutually supportive.

The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The full text of the “Beyond Kyoto” report is available on its Web site:

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