Rising to the challenge of climate change requires both reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and preparing for a future with a different climate (adaptation). Most water wonks (myself included) are focused on adapting to climate change impacts on freshwater resources, but we must also help in the effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. (For a balanced perspective on the “adaptation vs. mitigation” debate, see Michael ‘Aquadoc’ Campana’s recent commentary at the WaterWired blog.)
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions must be a global undertaking, since no country can (or would) do it alone. The Kyoto Protocol has proven to be only a modest success at best. The next global treaty must make far more significant cuts in emissions with commitments from both developed and rapidly developing countries. I presented this problem to the students in my International Environmental Law seminar, and after several weeks of research, negotiation, and treaty drafting on behalf of various parties, they produced the Wayne Protocol, a 34-page model global climate change treaty. Here are the highlights:
- The Wayne Protocol would result in a stabilized atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 550 parts per million by 2055 – an aggressive solution, but one that still will result in some expected climate change.
- The Wayne Protocol allocates greenhouse gas emissions to parties on the basis of population (40% of allocations) and GDP (60% of allocations). From this baseline, several bilateral agreements address the needs of individual parties, such as the European Community, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
- The Wayne Protocol provides for international trading of emission credits between approved countries, a clean development mechanism, and transfer of new technologies.
It is not a perfect solution (as if one exists), and it may be overly optimistic in the level of emission reductions for rapidly developing countries such as China. But I’m very proud of the collective work produced by the students, and the success of the exercise gives me hope for a new global climate change treaty in the very near future.