Mixed Track: Not Letting the Negotiations Fall Through the Cracks


A comprehensive international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is derived from the need to halt human-induced shifts in the climate system as soon as possible. These shifts are dependent “on cumulative emissions rather than on emissions at any particular point in time” or place for that matter.[1] There may be some nations, such as China or the United States, that need to reduce their emissions significantly more than others, but they cannot be the only reductions. Every other nation that is party to the UNFCCC must make reduction efforts if there is to be a holistic commitment by the entire international community. This means that nothing can fall through the cracks, which has been seen in past “top down” and “bottom up” approaches. A less rigid and more all-inclusive agreement needs to be reached. This agreement will have to come in the form of a “mixed track” initiative in order to allow for the flexibility needed by the broad range of interests displayed in the Parties.

This new agreement will come out of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), whose directive is to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”[2] The ADP is also charged with having this agreement ready for the 2015 negotiations. This would allow for it to be adopted and for implementation to begin in 2020, at the end of the extended Kyoto Protocol.

This new instrument will need to address the issue from a new perspective, as old agreements have not been comprehensive enough. A “mixed track” initiative would allow for flexibility and what is termed as “variable geometry” within the negotiations.[3] What this means is that certain parties would be able to take up different pledges in order to meet requirements set out for their particular region. This approach is not the one-size fit all that has been seen in the past. It avoids some of the pitfalls experienced by the stricter “bottom up” and “top down” approaches. An example of improvements to be made on the “top down” approach can be seen in the Kyoto Protocol’s lack of flexibility in developing emissions reductions targets. A more flexible approach would allow for non-absolute targets and allow for more participants, while promoting equity through nationally appropriate targets. This level of flexibility can be seen in the “bottom up” approach style, however the dependence on domestic governments in the development of national protocols has held some nations back from developing plans. The “mixed track” approach would offer the “variable geometry” that Bodansky mentioned. Nations would be able to develop a plan for emissions reductions, while still acting under the international regime target of emissions reductions, and have a higher likelihood of meeting that plan- seeing it was developed with domestic interests in mind. An issue of complexity does come to my mind when I think about this approach. Developing a system that could capture the many interests and needs of the international community without duplicating processes could prove to be difficult. But, no system is going to be a simple design. If this “mixed approach” could be agreed upon and developed it could get the job done.

Works Cited
Bodansky, Daniel & Elliot Diringer. 2010. The Evolution of Multilateral Regimes: Implications for Climate Change. Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington, VA.

Bodansky, Daniel. 2012. THE DURBAN PLATFORM: ISSUES AND OPTIONS FOR A 2015 AGREEMENT. Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University.


[1] Bodansky and Diringer, 2010

[2] UNFCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.1

[3] Bodansky, 2012

Climate Change in the American Political Climate…Finally!


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As was brought up countless times on our trip to D.C. last week, a main concern with U.S. climate policies is the possibility of a changing political leader every four or eight years. Furthermore, by including congressional elections to this equation, every two years the U.S. national political climate (no pun intended) changes. Thanks to the U.S. system of checks and balances, no matter whether it is the presidency or congressional majorities which change, both positions have the powerful ability to change policies through tools such as limiting funding and executive orders. There is hope that because Obama’s initiative for energy emissions reduction through the Clean Power Plan is implemented through the Clean Air Act, there will be few attempts to disassemble it as the Clean Air Act has met little opposition thus far.

This attention on national climate policy is no longer such a fringe topic, as is exemplified by the use of climate change as a debate topic for the upcoming Senate mid-term elections reported on by Coral Davenport and Ashley Parker in the NYTimes. Both Republicans and Democrats are focusing on climate, energy, and the environment in their ad campaigns and in some unpredictable ways. For example, both Republicans and Democrats in coal-producing states such as West Virginia are careful to support the industry and workers. However, in Colorado, Republican Senator Cory Gardner preaches clean energy in front of a wind turbine backdrop in one of his ads. The bottom line is no matter the stance, climate change will be a more central topic in this year’s midterm elections and even in the 2016 presidential elections. Already, senate debates in Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Colorado, and Iowa have included climate and environmental topics, compared to the 2012 presidential debates where climate change did not come up once.

The greater centrality of climate and energy policies in upcoming domestic elections makes me hopeful that something could be done regarding climate change in the future, and even better, possibly independent of a candidate’s party affiliation. Additionally, this rise in domestic political focus speaks to and provides hope for the idea that domestic action is the only way climate action will take place, even if determined on the international regime level. The need for nation-states’, and non-state actors for that matter, is vital for any possibility of international regime goals such as the 2°C warming limit, to be achieved.


Energy ads from every angle

DC Trip – A Wide Array of Climate Change

Last week the members of Dickinson’s Climate Change Mosaic was lucky enough to engage in valuable discussions with a wide range of climate change related actors, including: Tom Lovejoy, Bill Breed, John Holdren, Jacob Scherr, Mike MacCraken, Mike MacCracken, Dallas Butraw and many other highly regarded individuals. Although these private, public and governmental actors had careers focused in differentiated climate-related fields, their talks involved a common expected theme.  This theme was the how to approach future issues surrounding with climate change and it’s governance.
In which, Lovejoy’s solution was to restore vegetation, allowing for carbon sequestration through natural processes. Lovejoy explained that if restoration is implemented at a large scale, global temperatures could decrease by 0.6 degrees.  One of his recommended mechanism was for everyone to plant a tree, allowing for carbon sequestration.  Whereas Daniel Reifsnyder’s solutions consisted of closing the divide between developed and developing countries in the Paris’s agreement by requiring global participation with the right commitments.  Jacob Sherr highlighted the importance of addressing the climate change crisis with “new architecture”. The “new architecture” consisted of having a mixed-track approach towards climate change governance due the need to engage multiple players around the globe.   MacCraken focused on the benefits from completely cutting out long-term greenhouse gases, such as methane and black carbon.  These gases stay in the atmosphere longer than CO2 and IPCC currently does not deal with the effects from black carbon. Keya Chatterjee encouraged the switch to solar energy for it was cheaper than diesel (in some areas of the world).  She also discussed the need to engage the public through music and other sources of media to create global involvement. Overall, each speaker had influential ideas and thoughts on the varying issues surrounding climate change. It was evident that in order to approach climate change, actors from various fields need to come together to tackle the differentiating issues.

Negotiations stall over financing in Bonn

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bonn_adp26_533After this weeks discussions in Germany, negotiations has stalled leading up to Lima. Developed countries were not able to agree to a deal on financing the developing nations in exchange for their commitment to reduce emissions. This will continue to play out all the way through Lime. How are developed nations going to meet their $100 Billion pledge by 2020? With financing pieces from the US falling through, it looks challenging, but to get developing nations on board to reduce GHG emissions, it must be done. Read more here about the developments.

The EU agrees to a new deal

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6a9072bc-16ed-45a0-a9cb-aa58ff2c5e9a-460x276This week the EU agreed to cut carbon emissions by 40% no later than 2030.

The EU is already well towards their goal of 20% reductions by 2020. This represents a good step forward for the EU. It will be interesting to see how this plays out going into Lima and then Paris. We can imagine that the EU will be pushing the rest of the world to follow suit. The EU is doing their part, what about the US and China?

Read more about the EU deal here

An interview with the President of the COP

Image from: http://www.dw.de/we-will-succeed-in-these-negotiations/a-18012396
Image from: http://www.dw.de/we-will-succeed-in-these-negotiations/a-18012396

Ok, no I didn’t have the interview, but Peru’s Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, was recently interviewed by Charlotta Lomas. He discusses his hopes for COP20 and how the Peruvian government is prepared to help make the event successful.

This is going to be the biggest conference in Peru’s history, but they are ready for the challenge!

Read the interview for yourself here.


Proud of my Green State


Anyone who has interacted with me enough to discover where I am from, knows I am proud to be from the Golden State. I love the landscapes, the access to the outdoors, the food, the people.. in short I love my state. Part of this love comes from the role California has as a leader of environmental sustainability.  It is currently the nations top producer of solar energy (in 2013, 18% of our power came from solar), and is rated number one in clean technology (Bennett). None of this is to say that don’t have annoyance and anger towards the egregious environmental short comings of my state (don’t get me started on fracking, or almond production) but AB 32 reminds me of the environmental promise in California.

The the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) is one of the most comprehensive actions to mitigate climate change while living up to its promises of co-benefits. It takes a multitrack approach with, “Reductions in GHG emissions [that] will come from virtually all sectors of the economy and will be accomplished from a combination of policies, planning, direct regulations, market approaches, incentives and voluntary efforts” (“Assembly Bill 32 Overview.”). It will improve energy efficiency, expand renewable energy, improve public transportation, reduce emissions, waste and increase technology all while saving consumers money, and improving community health (“Assembly Bill 32 Overview.” and Alvord). According to the Union of Conserned Scientists, “A recent study found that California’s low carbon fuel standard and cap-and-trade programs will save $8.3 billion in health costs between now and 2025 by reducing asthma attacks, hospitalizations, and other health impacts associated with poor air quality” (Alvord). AB 32’s ultimate aim is to return California’s net emissions by to 1990 levels by 2020 and the more ambitious aim of reducing emission 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 (“Assembly Bill 32 Overview.”). 

Three cheers for my home state!


A picture of me and my sister backpacking in the Lost Coast in Northern California
A picture of me and my sister backpacking in the Lost Coast in Northern California


Work Cited:

Alvord, Adrienne. “Big Oil, Climate Change, and California’s AB32.” The Equation: Union of Concerned Scientists . N.p., 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://blog.ucsusa.org/big-oil-climate-change-and-californias-ab32-669>.

“Assembly Bill 32 Overview.” California Environmental Protection Agency. Ca.gov, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ab32/ab32.htm

Bennett, Lisa. “Rays of Hope in California.”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bennett/rays-of-hope-in-californi_b_5916096.html>.


Merchants of Doubt Stop Selling?

According to the Guardian’s article, “World’s to PR companies rule out working with climate deniers,” there has been a recent shift in the role PR companies have in creating climate change doubt. After reading Merchants of Doubt we all know the importance PR companies, along with several other actors, have had in making action on climate change difficult. The level of certainty within the scientific community has been high enough, in my opinion, to warrant wide-scale public fear and pressure to demand immediate and strong action to mitigate climate change for decades now. However, this level of certainty is still not reflected in the mainstream media or consciousness. This is in large part because of misinformation campaigns, driven by savvy PR firms, that slam real facts, and misinterpret reasonable amounts of uncertainty about the various aspects of climate change from the science to the economics of it.

Yet, we are perhaps witnessing a change in the willingness of these companies to partake in merchandizing doubt, even if marginal. The Guardian and the Climate Investigations Center (an organization that monitors and researches misinformation campaigns surrounding climate change) acquired data through surveys sent to these companies. According to the authors of the article, Suzanne Goldenberg and Nishad Karim, “Now a number of the top 25 global PR firms have told the Guardian they will not represent clients who deny man-made climate change, or take campaigns seeking to block regulations limiting carbon pollution. Companies include WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100, and Finn Partners” (Goldenberg).  This moral and political switch is very exciting and hopeful to a certain extent.

However, the research collected should be taken with a fair amount of skepticism and a watchful eye of potential green washing by these companies. To begin the Guardian and Climate Investigations Center (CIC) did not appear to get the full picture of the “top PR Companies” as the title suggests; less than half responded to them including companies with a history of both environmental and climate change disinformation campaigns.  Furthermore, it was a survey, not necessarily research into each individual firm’s internal policies, client list and current and past campaigns. This means the firms only offered what information they want the media and watchdogs to know. These are PR firms, they are experts in creating the appearance they want, while masking what they don’t want known or focused on. Kert Davies, the founder of CIC acknowledges this saying, “They pretend they are above the fray and they are not involved, and yet they are the ones designing ad campaigns, designing lobbying campaigns, and designing the messages their clients want to convey around climate change ” (Goldenberg).

So while this article can, and perhaps should, be taken with a healthy dose of cynicism it got me thinking about some hopeful outcomes.  As we have learned in class one of the key roles of transnational networks is regulation. This is often taken in the form of an organization or network creating a certifiable standards, benchmarks or rules that encourage voluntary participation of companies. These certifications can be highly credible and a good way to motivate companies to take action and become accountable for their current actions. I think that if a transnational network of PR firms set a standard that committed them to only represent climate positive companies it has the potential to increase the momentum founding this article. While the CIC is a good start, from what I can tell, a more legitimate actor with similar goals, would be necessary for this type of regulation to succeed.


Work Cited:

Goldenberg, Suzanne , and Nishad Karim. “Environment Climate change World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers.” The Guardian. N.p., 4 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/04/worlds-top-pr-companies-rule-out-working-with-climate-deniers>.

To Climate Change Deniers


By Maeve Hogel

In preparation for COP 20 in Lima, we’ve been learning about the difficulties that arise in climate change negotiations. For such a global problem, we need a global effort and it’s hard to get that many nations, cultures and peoples on the same page.

However, even within the United States, we still aren’t on the same page. Despite all of the data and statistics showing that the planet is warming, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan said today that we still don’t know if humans are causing climate change. When asked in a debate if humans were the cause of climate change, Ryan said “I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think science does either.”

To all climate change deniers, our favorite science guy, Bill Nye, says perfectly, “that living things change through a process that Darwin and Wallace calls natural selection. Those are facts. Tectonic plates move and that’s a fact. And the world is getting warmer because of human activity. And thats a fact.”

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How can we decide?


The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) aims to close the gap between emission pledges of countries and the possibility of countries actually having the ability to make the global average temperature to be below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. In order for this to happen, countries must come to an agreement by getting involved. However, from the start of the UNFCCC negotiations, parties have had a difficult time agreeing on whether to choose a top-down approach or a bottom-up approach.

A top-down approach is more of a contractual approach. Obligations are decided through international negotiations and it is done with targets and timetables. On the other hand, a bottom-up approach is a facilitative approach that lets a country unilaterally decide what they want to do. It is more of a voluntary approach. The bottom-up approach or “facilitative model” of “international agreements starts from what countries are doing on their own, and seeks to find ways to reinforce and encourage these activities. International law can serve a number of catalytic and facilitative functions. Gatherings such as the annual meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties can focus attention, help raise public concern, and prod states to do more” (Bodansky, 2012). This approach displays the work of countries and what they are doing. There is an assessment of the overall effectiveness. Countries that do not have the financial and technological capacities are not singled out. This approach gives them a better chance to allow greater actions to be taken. It allows for flexibility and inclusivity because it does not require a protocol or international legal agreement unlike the top-down approach (Bondansky 2012). An example of the bottom-up approach would be the Copenhagen Accord and Cancún Agreements. It is only partially committed, not legally binded which increases followers. The fact that it is flexible allows a larger amount of countries to agree to follow an agreement because they are getting what they want. “Bottom-up approaches score well in terms of participation and implementation, but low in terms of stringency” (Bodansky, 2012).However, flexibility is an issue because it gives countries a way to do less towards climate change since they decide what they will do.

The Kyoto Protocol is an example of a top-down approach for mitigating climate change negotiations. The issue with this protocol is that developed and developing countries could not come to an agreement when negotiating the protocol. The top-down approach enacts regulations explicitly but has issues with participation and implementation (Bodansky, 2012). The mixed-track approach is a fusion of both top-down and bottom-up approach. However, I believe that the bottom-up approach is the best because it starts at an individual level. It may create a division and that may be a weakness for it but the fact that a country is willing to do something is better than nothing. Arguing to negotiate on climate change will not stop it or reduce it. Taking even the smallest bit of action will. We need implementation and participation as well as fast action by the government to reach the 2020 goals of the ADP.




Work Cited

David Bodansky, “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement,” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (2012): 1-11.