Saying Goodbye to the Copenhagen Protocol

November 24, 2009, by Michael Gillenwater

Those of us constantly sniffing the political winds during the numerous negotiations leading up to this December’s Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen have known for some time that the chance of a real deal on a new protocol were near zero.More important to developing this intuition is tracking the political tide here in Washington, D.C., where the never ending debate on national reform of heath care policy has burned up all of the oxygen in the city and left Democrats less willing to push another “liberal” issue, and has Republicans smelling blood in the water as they continue to be the party of “NO” on every item on the Obama agenda.

We may still get emissions cap-and-trade legislation in the United States, although the chances are not great.  But months back, it became clear that getting legislation through the U.S. Senate was unlikely before the Copenhagen meeting, and so it would be nearly impossible to create the certainty U.S. negotiators needed.  If U.S. negotiators could come to the table with a firm target, then they could break the international logjam that could create a deal that China, India, Brazil, and the Europeans could go for.

We have to remember, though, that even with Kyoto back in 1997, there were a couple years of follow on negotiations needed to really put meat on the bones of what was a pretty thinly specified treaty.  Unfortunately, we won’t even have something like this coming out of Copenhagen.

In the meantime, carbon markets will continue to suffer from investor uncertainty.  And we have another one to two years of continued negotiations internationally.  The extra time does mean we have time to build up the kind of infrastructure that the GHG Management Institute was designed to do.  Specifically, we are developing the first rigorous and global professional certification program for the serious work of GHG emissions accounting, auditing, and management.  Much more on this coming soon, including a new article in the forthcoming Dec/Jan issue of Environmental Finance.

Michael Gillenwater

Dean, Executive Director, Co-founder

One response to “Saying Goodbye to the Copenhagen Protocol”

  1. Tom says:

    Nonsense, the cop15 is going to be a successful meeting without a doubt.

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