What Would I Do? Thoughts on Copenhagen Negotiations

With 40 days to go and counting, it will not have escaped the readers of this blog's notice that are some climate change negotiations coming up, related to the end-of-year conference in Copenhagen. This blog post tries to ask what could be achieved in an 'ideal world' at Copenhagen. What are the objectives of global negotiations? What are we trying to achieve? What are the political constraints that we have to deal with?

In a separate blog post I discuss one possible ways of solving the climate change problem. Here I merely describe what I personally would think would be a good outcome of Copenhagen.

It seems likely that targets will be a major part of the outcome. What use are targets? Well they suggest what nations promise to do in the future. But unless they are enforced, they are pretty useless.

Institutions, Measurement and Enforcement
A better outcome than targets would be institution(s) with teeth.

What is an institution? Well the OED defines Institution (6th definition) thus:
An established law, custom, usage, practice, organization, or other element in the political or social life of a people; a regulative principle or convention subservient to the needs of an organized community or the general ends of civilization.
So we need some of those, at the global level!! At the moment we have some institutions already: the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - which does the science - and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - which organizes these Conferences of the Parties (COPs). But it would be nice to get an institution with teeth.

What would an institution with teeth look like? Maybe like the World Trade Organization. The WTO appears to annoy a lot of people which perhaps means that it does something.

Why do we need institutions? Well, one reason is that we need enforcement. If people don't do what they said that they would do, then they need some sort of serious redress. Enforcement could take the form of financial penalties for example. Related to enforcement is the issue of measurement - we need to know what an outcome has been before we can enforce it.