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Climate change affects virtually every being on Earth today. Even if your country hasn’t (yet) been struck by ecological disasters, chances are you participate in the world economy, consume industrialized goods, or simply breathe the air we share. That means you too should be involved in climate change management. What does that mean? Well, beyond adopting some everyday, small-scale habits, such as recycling, unplugging appliances and other energy-conserving behaviors, you can urge your country representatives to get involved in the international negotiations on climate change. Now once you – and several million people around the world – have done that, it becomes necessary to move from the negotiation stage to the action stage. And that is pretty much where we’re stuck today. The UNFCCC has generated a spectacularly complex system of bureaucracies, including the much celebrated and hugely unsuccessful Kyoto Protocol. In spite of its noble intention, Kyoto failed due to a fairly important reason: lack of compliance.

As the next meeting of the parties who ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the COP-15, draws nearer, issues concerning its continuation after 2012 are being discussed. Among the factors affecting compliance is the implementation of flexibility mechanisms that allow countries to meet their CO2 emissions reductions goals by participating in a trading system. Ideally, this should allow all parties to benefit by either selling reductions they achieved at a low cost (thus turning a profit), or buying them at a lower cost than they would’ve incurred by applying them domestically. The problem is, of course, how to keep this market from the usual market economy abuses. The entire flexibility system would be undermined if the market grew in a direction in which profits would be produced without generating any real CO2 emissions reductions.

As much as this concern should be addressed by tight regulations, it shouldn’t be strong enough to force the elimination of all flexibility mechanisms. We need to remember that the economic and behavioral changes required under the current climate change management plans are not going to be willed into being, they have to be consciously produced. This will only happen if commitment and compliance can be obtained from all communities in the world. In order to make this goal realistic, it is necessary to facilitate mechanisms for countries to cope with unforeseen obstacles, as well as to encourage bi- and multilateral bonds among them. Flexibility mechanisms will yield positive results so long as legally-binding regulations stemming from strong commitment keep them (and the parties in the market) honest.

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