New Optimism for this Year’s Climate Change Talks


The latest rounds in climate negotiations are set to take place in Doha, Qatar from November 26 to December 7, 2012 to discuss a new Climate Change Treaty set to take effect in 2015.  This will be the 18th Climate negotiation since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Earth Summit) in 1992.  Many are hopeful that the United States will take a more active role in this round of negotiations, despite them rejecting the Kyoto Protocol and failing to pass meaningful climate change legislation in the United States. The success of the next climate change treaty will depend largely on the cooperation between the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the U.S. and China.

Hopefully, the extreme weather events in the past year in the U.S. including record-breaking heat waves and super-storm Sandy have brought to light the seriousness of climate change.  In addition, the reelection of President Obama is seen as auspicious because Mitt Romney does not see climate change as a serious issue.

In 1997, the United Nations held a its third Conference of the Parties meeting which met in Kyoto, Japan and negotiated the Kyoto Protocol.  The Kyoto Protocol outlined specific binding greenhouse gas reduction targets.  In the United States, while the Protocol was being negotiated, the 105th Congress unanimously passed Senate Resolution 98, also known as the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, in which they stated that the Senate would not ratify any treaty that had binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, but did not have binding limits for developing countries.  In the past, China has been considered a developing country and so has not been required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

It will be interesting to see what direction negotiations will take and what part the United States will play in negotiating a new climate change treaty.  Do you think that the U.S. should ratify a climate change treaty with binding emission reduction targets even if developing countries such as China are not required to do so?


SOURCES: Huffington Post, Yahoo News

PHOTOGRAPH: Huffington Post




  1. It will be interesting to see if the United States takes a more active role at this year’s conference. It is important for the United States to be seen as a leader on this issue for several reasons. First, by agreeing to make concerted efforts to cut emissions, the United States and the world community would have increased leverage in prodding China into making similar concessions. Second, the United States has lost serious ground to China in green technology due to expiring tax cuts and short sighted politicians. This is an emerging industry and the United States should fight tooth and nail to secure itself as a front runner.

    Unfortunately, I do not believe much will come of the United State’s participation. President Obama and House democrats are attempting to push an increase in taxes on some of the wealthiest Americans–a fight that will surely cost the bulk of whatever political capital Obama has left. I doubt that many will be willing to accept wholesale changes in our energy policy at a time when many still believe climate change is nothing more than a myth.

  2. I agree that it is important for America to be seen as leader on the issue of climate change. And, I agree that this will probably not happen. I do not think that the U.S. will take the first step to reduce its own emissions, save for massive pressure from the American public, even if it meant being able to exercise pressure on China. Second, on the point that the U.S. has lost major ground in renewable energy technology, this is another area which the U.S., particularly the Obama administration, has hampered international cooperation. This past October, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels ranging from 18.32% to 249.96%. China relies heavily on its renewables exports market to support growth in the sector. This only hurts the global effort to reduce GHG emissions. China already invests billions in renewables every year, and its lack of progress in reducing its emissions seems to be less a question of political will, and more a question of economic reality.

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