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The Impacts of Russian Ratification and American Election on the Climate Regime

The Impacts of Russian Ratification and American Election on the Climate Regime

6 December 2004

International climate policy, the significance of Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the US elections were the subject at the Dinner Dialog on 6 December 2004. It was held in honour of Oran Young, university professor in the U.S. and in Norway. The institutional structure and goals of the international climate regime, the opportunities, both for the further development of existing structures and agendas and for the creation of possible new regimes as well as the need for concrete action, were vividly and controversially discussed.

The event opened with a statement by Oran Young focussing on three fundamental and related topics:

  1. First, he addressed the Kyoto Protocol which, following Russia's ratification, will enter into force in spring 2005. Young questioned the effect the protocol would have on emission reductions and came to the conclusion that this impact would be small. He stated that the Kyoto protocol was -in any case- insufficient to reach the level of emission reduction necessary for a successful climate protection. He, nevertheless, identified three aspects in relation to which the protocol could develop a certain significance: (a) It constitutes an opportunity to experiment with the Kyoto mechanisms. This experience will serve as a basis  for improvement and development of climate policy. (b) Furthermore, the pressure to activate CDM-projects will grow, even though it is still unclear how they will function. Last but not least, the Kyoto protocol's "mini-lateralism" represents a start which might lead to spill-over effects.
  2. Oran Young then turned to the US elections. Considering the re-election of President Bush, he assumed that no significant change will take place in the field of climate policy in the next few years. However, he pointed out that public interest and activities of NGOs are rising. Furthermore, climate initiatives at state and city level are increasing.
  3. Oran Young finally addressed a systematic problem of climate policy. He pointed out that interests of players wanting a "decarbonised" industrial society and those approaching the problem from a technical, efficiency-oriented point of view should be differentiated. The former consider climate policy to be a cultural and social issue, as well as a question of responsibility. The latter focus on efficiency. These differences lead to great differences in the choice of climate policy. As the USA belongs to the latter group, a different outcome of the election would probably not have caused a significantly different climate policy.

Oran Young is a professor in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is also an adjunct professor of Political Science at the university of Tromsø in Norway. He is chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the international project on the Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC) and served for six years as vice-president of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). Oran Young is the author or co-author of over twenty books and numerous scholarly articles.

Matthias Urbach, correspondent of the German daily newpaper "taz", responded to Young´s statement as the evening´s first discussant. He painted a more pessimistic picture of the climate regimes than Oran Young. Urbach considers the entry into force to be a result of the Russian policy interested in economic and political gains related to emissions trading and Russia´s accession to the WTO. Furthermore, Urbach pointed out the great difficulties of implementing climate-protection-schemes, which in theory might be very promising. He exemplified this by pointing to the experience of Germany and the UK implementing the european emissions trading scheme as well as the upcoming difficulties of the European Union to meet its Kyoto-obligations. Finally, Urbach demanded a new protocol integrating the U.S.A.

Matthias Urbach is correspondent in the field of "Economy and Environment" of the German national daily newspaper "taz". As a trained physician, he has been following up on international climate policy for eight years. He reported among others on the international climate talks in Kyoto (1997) and Bonn (2001). Other focal points of his work are finance and consumer policy, as well as science.

In the ensuing dialogue the guests addressed the following issues:

  • the process leading to the results laid down in the Kyoto-Protocol
  • the process in which the international community tried to integrate the U.S.-delegation and the analysis of the failure of this approach
  • possibilities of mini- and multilateralism
  • possibilities and necessities of integrating China and India in the existing climate regime
  • possibilities and necessities of integrating the U.S. in an international climate regime beside the Kyoto-Protocol
  • significance of the Kyoto-Protocol as political corner stone and expectations regarding the political and economic dynamic evolving from its entry into force
  • perspective for the European Union
  • impact of JI and CDM and political risks of these projects
  • impact of an integrated international energy policy and especially the support of renewable energies regarding climate protection

Oran Young
Matthias Urbach
6 December 2004
Berlin, Germany