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.

Meeting in the middle of Top-Down and Bottom-Up

In the conclusion of The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement, Daniel Bodansky states, “The challenge now is to retain sufficient flexibility to achieve strong participation while also raising ambition—both in terms of legal form and, more importantly, in the collective level of effort” (Bodansky 11) in regards to achieving the best possible post 2020 agreements. Bodansky believes the effectiveness of the outcome will be dependent on stringency, participation, and compliance, (Bodansky) however, this view leaves out other essential themes; accountability, ambition, transparency, and flexibility. The greatest outcome possible will require all of the above. This could be achieved by a “mixed track” approach, meeting exactly in the middle of “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches.

Daniel Bodansky lists different options for a Durban Platform outcome, each with aspects that may work and others that raise questions. (Bodansky) The outcome of the Durban Platform needs to dive in to a transparent-stringent-internationally-legally-binding approach that must become the norm through raising national accountability and action transparency.

Legally-binding agreements must be set, focusing heavily on the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) of different countries; specific emissions reductions strategies and plans need to be set for each country/region. (Bodansky) Although the bottom-up approach may seem “the easiest to achieve politically” (Bodansky 8), it lacks ambition because individual bodies are setting their own actions based on preferences. In order to promote more ambitious action plans, others need to be involved in helping set agreements. If there were a way to physically take every country, in dialogue with each other, and have them set agreements for each one but converse collectively on them, this would be the most ideal situation.

This would require keying in on the CBDRRC aspects in order to promote the most equitable yet stringent plans. (Bodansky) “Countries will be more willing to negotiate commitments if the terms of engagement ensure that both they and their counterparts are negotiating within tracts appropriate to their respective circumstances” (Bodansky 10). The fact that dialogue would be cohesively international, would ensure this and furthermore, would hopefully, raise accountability and increase compliance.

Additionally, mandatory language such as “shall” rather than hortatory language, “should”, needs to be precedent. Plans need to be joint and certain from the beginning, but also allow room for alteration and change in the future, again through open dialogue. (Bodansky)

Picture the practice of any team sport, the coach asks, “Do we want to run today?”. The accountable athlete, who always wants to better themselves, will say yes and the complacent   athlete who does not often push themselves, will say no… In the end, it’s a trick question anyway, and the coach expects everyone to say yes. When you have a cohesive accountable team working towards specific goals, everyone knows to say “yes” because it’s what they have to do to achieve their goals. The unified and liable team, it the team that make it to the play offs.

This is what must happen in climate governance. Communication needs to be open, cooperative, and decisive. Somewhere between the bottom-up and top-down approaches, internationally we must come together to create justifiable expectations. The same way that each individually teammate, plays an essential role in getting to that play-off game. In order to have the best outcome of the Durban Platform, the utmost cooperation and accountability must be present.

Works Cited

Bodansky, Daniel and O’Connor, Sandra Day. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.” December 2012. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Web.


The Multi-Track Approach: Comprehensive, Ambitious and Feasible

The Gift of Reciprocity gameplan for success

Time is running out to create meaningful international climate change action. The parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere is still on a steady increase, it is well past the internationally agreed upon safe limit, 350ppm. The agreement created by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) might be the last chance for a meaningful agreement that would prevent catastrophic increase in global temperatures, over two degrees. In the past twenty years of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the negotiations have been largely ineffective in succeeding in their goals to plateau or decrease global emissions despite a range of tactics. They have tried a “top-down” approach through the Kyoto Protocol that had “contractual” emissions reductions, a “bottom-up” approach that “facilitated” voluntary emissions reductions (Bodansky). Both approaches have had positive and negative results, some of which are still unknown in the grand scheme of events, however, both have on the whole failed to produce the level and breadth of cooperation and action necessary to realistically mitigate climate change. Going forward a new approach is required that builds of the previous structures of negotiations to create the best agreement possible. If done correctly, a multi-track approach would combine the reciprocity and flexibility needed to get a high level of participation while producing the most comprehensive, ambitious and feasible climate agreement possible.

Due to the fact that essentially all aspects of society and economy perpetuate climate change, and that each nation has unique societal, economic and political backgrounds, an equally dynamic approach is required to successfully tackle mitigation. This means creating an international agreement that has the capacity to be successfully encourage and enforce nations to collectively and individually attack the issue by any and all means necessary. In discussing the failures of COP19 Joseph Zammit-Lucia noted that, “It’s not a lack of will that is the problem; it’s a lack of politically and practically achievable ways to achieve these results” (Zammit-Lucia). If each country gets to choose the manner with which they will reduce emissions, so long as “The different tracks [are] tied together by a core agreement addressing matters such as institutional arrangements, metrics and methodologies for comparing commitments under different tracks, reporting, and compliance,” then the possibility of follow through is much higher (Bodansky 10). Some form of legal requirements are needed for each nation to trust that their actions are reciprocated and to avoid a problem of potential free-riding, however, this could potentially also take the form of legislation at a nation level in addition to legal commitments at an international level (Bernauer).

In describing the form that a multi-track agreement would take Daniel Bodansky discussed including obligations for countries based specific parameters, “for example, countries with per capita GDPs above an agreed threshold might be expected to assume economy-wide emission targets” (Bodansky 10). However, other nations might be legally obligated to mitigation action through sectoral agreements or national policy making, based on the capacity of the nation. This type of system would create dynamic, “configurations of countries,” involving multiple, layering commitments based on the most effective strategy (Bodansky 9). However, because the negotiations would be based on reciprocity the potential for ambition is much higher.

For the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action to be successful it must consider using the multi-tack approach in order to accomplish the post 2020 goals of less than or equal to two degree global temperature increase. Due to the various circumstances within each nation there is no single answer for reducing emissions across the board, and this agreement should reflect that. The ADP has the potential to ensure the flexibility necessary for each nation to achieve the highest level of emissions reduction, attract a broad participation due to this flexibility, while also promoting the most aggressive reductions through the dynamic system of reciprocity.


Work Cited:

Bernauer, Thomas , Robert Gampfer, and Florian Landis . “Burden Sharing in Global Climate  Governance.” Centre for European Economic ResearchCentre for European EconomicResearch Unknown (2014): 1-9. Print.

Bodansky, Daniel. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.” Center for Climate and Energy solutions Unknown (2012): 1-10. Print.

Zammit-Lucia, Joseph . “COP19: the UN’s climate talks proved to be just another cop out.” The Guardian . N.p., 2 Dec. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.