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.