Todd Stern's Strategy for Climate Negotiations: Not Another Kyoto

todd-sternSecretary of State Hillary Clinton has appointed Todd Stern special envoy on climate change, making him the country’s top diplomat for international climate negotiations. Stern worked on the Kyoto Protocol talks as an official in the Clinton administration, but he has no plans for a repeat performance, according to a piece he co-wrote for the Washington Quarterly in 2007:

This is no time to indulge in orthodoxies or in the kind of overextended discussion that marked too much of the six-year Kyoto Protocol negotiation. As the United Kingdom’s climate envoy, John Ashton, said recently, “We now need to stop talking about talking and start deciding about doing.” The next president should approach this issue the way President Franklin Roosevelt approached the Great Depression: in a spirit of restless experimentation.

Here are some of the basic guidelines that Stern, with co-author and Brookings Institution fellow William Antholis, offered for that experimentation:

  • Create a group of eight key developed and developing nations, including Brazil, China, the EU, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. Together, this “E-8” accounts for some 70 perent of global emissions. Negotiations should take place at a head-of-state level, rather than with technical-level bureaucrats.
  • Partner with China, offering “environmental technology” and mobilizing investment while encouraging China to reform its regulatory system and incentive structure.
  • Bottom line: Set binding emissions targets for developed countries and as many advanced developing countries as possible. The targets should be long-term (relative to the five-year timeframe used in Kyoto) and grow tighter over time.