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Next Stop Durban: Moving Beyond the Kyoto Protocol

GMI discusses the latest shifts in global climate policy; less emphasis on the UN framework and more on practicable solutions from individual countries and companies.

Durban to continue shift away from binding global agreements

The UN climate conference in Durban is unlikely to yield a comprehensive and binding agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. Instead, we expect to see a further transition to a global climate change process that focuses on voluntary national pledges and international support through financing and technology transfer. The focus of mitigation and adaptation efforts is likely to shift from multilateral institutions and developed countries to developing countries and the private sector—echoing the ongoing shift of economic growth to emerging markets.

Emissions to continue to rise, especially in emerging economies

Despite ongoing efforts at mitigation, greenhouse gas emissions remain on a long-term growth trajectory, with energy-intensive economic growth in developing countries spelling more emissions ahead. In response, climate change policy is likely to rebalance some focus away from emission reduction efforts toward adaptation initiatives, i.e., adjustments to actual or expected climatic effects.

High-growth nations are generating both emissions and solutions

Some of the world’s faster-growing countries, including Australia, China and Brazil, are moving ahead unilaterally, seeing climate change as an economic opportunity rather than simply a cost. In 2010 China was the world leader in both clean energy investment and renewable energy capacity. At the same time, economic weakness has deterred the traditional champions of climate change efforts, namely the EU and Japan, from pursuing aggressive policy changes.

Private sector is starting to seize opportunities

Lower costs, revenue opportunities and government incentives in many countries are driving private sector involvement in climate change. Many large companies have already realized the cost containment benefits of “green” planning. Some are hedging future operational risk. Some are now starting to capitalize on the revenue opportunities that climate change is generating. In particular, investment in clean technology has continued to grow in both developed and developing countries.

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