IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Participation

The participation of states in international agreements can vary. At one extreme, participation can be universal; at the other extreme, participation can be limited to just two countries. Many studies propose that participation can be differentiated in different tiers (see Staged systems in Table 13.2). States participating in the same tier would have the same type of commitments (i.e. in the UNFCCC regime). The most important tiers are Annex I and non-Annex I, but there are also special arrangements for economies in transition as well as for least developed countries. Figure 13.2 shows the groupings of countries under the UNFCCC, OECD and EU. The allocation of states into tiers can be made according to quantitative or qualitative criteria or ‘ad hoc’ (see Table 13.2). According to the principle of sovereignty, states may also choose the tier in which they want to be grouped, provided their choice is accepted by other countries (see Kameyama, 2003; Reinstein, 2004).

Figure 13.2

Figure 13.2: Current country groupings under the UNFCCC, OECD and EU.

Source: Höhne et al. (2005).

Participation in the agreement can be static,[32] or it may change dynamically over time. In the latter case, states can “graduate” from one tier of commitments to the next. Graduation can be linked to the meeting of quantitative thresholds for certain parameters (or combinations of parameters) that have been predefined in the agreement, such as emissions, cumulative emissions, GDP per capita, relative contribution to temperature increase or other measures of development, such as the human development index (see Berk and Den Elzen (2001), Gupta (1998, 2003a) and Höhne et al. (2003) for a review of per-capita emissions thresholds; Criqui et al. (2003) and Michaelowa et al. (2005b) for discussion of a composite index using the sum of per-capita emissions and per-capita GDP and Torvanger et al. (2005) for further composite indices). Qualitative thresholds such as adherence to certain country groupings (OECD, Economies in Transition) are already in use. Ott et al. (2004) combine quantitative and qualitative thresholds. Thresholds can be derived from agreed-upon GHG concentration targets or global emissions paths or be based on other parameters, such as willingness or capacity to pay.

Some have argued that an international agreement needs to include at least the major emitters to be effective, since the largest 15 countries (the EU25 is considered here to be one country) produce as much as 80% of global GHG emissions (Baumert et al., 2005a; PEW, 2005; Stewart and Weiner, 2003; Torvanger et al., 2005; Schmidt et al., 2006). A similar approach has been taken by authors comparing climate change agreements to other multilateral instruments, including disarmament treaties and the Antarctic Treaty (see Murase, 2002a). In these analyses, the authors assert that success can only be achieved if the major stakeholders act. Thus, for example, a nuclear disarmament treaty would be meaningless if it was not ratified by those States with nuclear weapons, even if it was ratified by the 180 non-nuclear States. By analogy, a climate change treaty is meaningful only if commitments are adopted and implemented by the major emitters – noting that the benefits of participation accrue to all countries, including those not taking part in the agreement. Murase (2002a) suggests that a future regime after 2012 thus needs to include key countries or groups such as the USA, EU, Japan, China, India, Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Nigeria.

Much of the literature on game theory suggests that the conditions necessary for achieving large-scale stable coalitions mean that relatively modest emissions reductions will be achieved (e.g. Carraro and Siniscalco, 1993; Hoel and Schneider, 1997). Cooperative game theory emphasizes the prospect of building stable coalitions if a transfer scheme (e.g. by emissions trading) can allocate the gains from cooperation in proportion to the benefits from reduced climate impacts (e.g. Chander and Tulkens, 1995; Germain et al., 1998; Germain et al., 2003). Eykmans and Finus (2003) note that much of the literature focuses on a ‘grand (all party) coalition, analyses stability in terms of the aggregate payoff to coalitions and rests on very strong assumptions about implicit punishment of any free-riding countries.’ A more extensive discussion of the issues of free-riding is contained in Chapter 10 of the TAR.

Alternative assumptions can provide a richer understanding of possible factors relevant to an agreement by relating relate to the response to payoffs from cooperation, including spillover and trade effects, allowing for the development of multiple coalitions and recognizing trade and the role of technology transfer as well as the potential for other transfer schemes (Tol et al., 2000; Finus, 2002; Kemfert et al., 2004). They also increase the possibility that partial cooperation (including involving more than one coalition) can close the gap between the global optimum (full cooperation) and “no cooperation” by a substantial amount. While this is essentially a theoretical conclusion (based in some cases on modelling reflecting some empirical evidence), it provides some basis for suggesting that it is too restrictive to assume that a single, all-encompassing global intergovernmental agreement is a necessary condition for effective mitigation action.

Some authors (see, for example, Muller, 2002; Jaeger, 2003) suggest that a climate regime is not exclusively about mitigation but that it also encompasses adaptation and, as such, far wider arrays of countries are vulnerable to climate and must be included in any agreement. Further, several authors (e.g. Meira Filho and Gonzales, 2000; Pan, 2005) argue that even if the majority of emissions are the responsibility of only a few nations, all countries must share the commitments to reduce these for reasons of equity and fairness (recognizing that such actions should be differentiated according to responsibility and capability). Other rationales for global engagement are also used, including that if only some major countries participate, the emissions of non-participating countries could increase by the migration of emission-intensive industries. Therefore, most proposals aim to provide incentives for countries to participate. Some aim at pull incentives, such as temporary over-allocation or no regret structures; others mention push incentives, such as trade sanctions or border tax adjustments (Kuik, 2003; Biermann and Brohm, 2005).

Other authors argue that countries have differentiated historical responsibility and that such a sub-global participation can be effective: Grubb et al. (2002) argue that under some scenarios one can expect that technology development driven by the international climate regime in Annex I countries could offset some or all emissions leakage in non-Annex I countries. Sijm (2004) notes that a number of policies could promote this spillover effect in the longer term. These types of policies include international cooperation on Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D), promoting open trade or using the Clean Development Mechanism. Others argue that with the participation of some large countries, other countries cannot lag behind and that the climate regime should look for that ‘tipping point’ (Barrett, 2003).

In general, the literature suggests that actions can occur in parallel and that international agreements could have multiple components, since national circumstances are so diverse. However, the suggestion is also made that care should be taken, particularly for countries with limited institutional capacity, to avoid creating too many simultaneous international activities.

  1. ^  For example, participation in the tiers of commitments of the Kyoto Protocol can only be changed by an amendment which has to be ratified by all parties. As this is