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Montreal and Kyoto: A Tale of Two Protocols

By Cass Sunstein | Harvard Environmental Law Review, 2007

CREDIT: NASA Goddard (CC).

At first glance, the problems of ozone depletion and climate change seem exceedingly similar, and appear to present closely related challenges for the production of an international agreement to reduce the underlying risks.

In both contexts, nations appear to have a great deal to gain from cooperative action. In both contexts, technological innovation is highly desirable as a means of reducing the costs of regulation. In both contexts, intergenerational equity is a serious and complex issue. In both contexts, wealthy nations are responsible for the problem in the first instance, and poor nations have a plausible claim to compensation, both for harm done and in return for their willingness to reduce emissions in the future.

Notwithstanding the similarities, the Montreal Protocol has proved a stunning success, and the Kyoto Protocol seems to have failed. It is best to assume that domestic self-interest will continue to act as an important motivating force. The position of the United States will not shift unless the domestic benefits of emissions reductions are perceived to increase or unless the perceived domestic costs drop, perhaps as a result of technological innovation. It follows that for the future, the task remains to devise an international agreement that resembles the Montreal Protocol in one critical respect: its signatories, including the United States, have reason to believe that they will gain more than they will lose.

External Link: Montreal and Kyoto: A Tale of Two Protocols [PDF]

Read More: Democracy, Diplomacy, Economy, Energy, Environment, Ethics, Sustainability, United States, Americas, Global

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