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  • Author: Deborah Gordon, Frances Reuland
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: Earth's temperature is rising to dangerous levels. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is increasingly urgent. Although carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas, short-lived climate pollutants like methane are rapidly accelerating global warming in the near term. Methane emissions are on the rise. The global growth in oil and gas production and consumption is a prime driver. A new report released today by researchers at the Watson Institute identifies a multi-pronged approach for mapping and measuring methane and provides new tools to more effectively manage this super pollutant. Under a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, authors Deborah Gordon, Watson Institute Senior Fellow, and Frances Reuland, former Brown University Researcher, assess the many ways that methane escapes from the oil and gas sector, both unintentionally and purposefully. Using a first-of-its-kind model under development, the Oil Climate Index + Gas, they estimate that oil operations are at greater risk for intentional venting and flaring of methane while gas operations pose a higher risk of inadvertent fugitive methane and accidental releases. The ability to focus detection and policymaking on the operators who bear direct emissions responsibility holds out the best prospects for methane reductions worldwide. While governments, NGOs, and companies continue to improve their methods to pinpoint and measure methane, difficulties remain. Overcoming these barriers requires: increased transparency and data collection; improved oversight through monitoring, reporting, and verification; regulations and binding agreements; research and development (R&D) and technology transfer; and financial incentives and penalties. In order to offer durable climate solutions, efforts to mitigate methane must be designed to withstand future political pressures.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Science and Technology, Pollution, Fossil Fuels, Methane
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jesse Reynolds, Gernot Wagner
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: New technologies, such as social media and do-it-yourself biotechnology, alter the capacities and incentives of both state and nonstate actors. This can include enabling direct decentralized interventions, in turn altering actors’ power relations. The provision of global public goods, widely regarded as states’ domain, so far has eluded such powerful technological disruptions. We here introduce the idea of highly decentralized solar geoengineering, plausibly done in form of small high-altitude balloons. While solar geoengineering has the potential to greatly reduce climate change, it has generally been conceived as centralized and state deployed. Potential highly decentralized deployment moves the activity from the already contested arena of state action to that of environmentally motivated nongovernmental organizations and individuals, which could disrupt international relations and pose novel challenges for technology and environmental policy. We explore its feasibility, political implications, and governance.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael A Mehling
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Parties to the Paris Agreement can engage in voluntary cooperation and use internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards their national climate pledges. Doing so promises to lower the cost of achieving agreed climate objectives, which can, in turn, allow Parties to increase their mitigation efforts with given resources. Lower costs do not automatically translate into greater climate ambition, however. Transfers that involve questionable mitigation outcomes can effectively increase overall emissions, affirming the need for a sound regulatory framework. As Parties negotiate guidance on the implementation of cooperative approaches under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, they are therefore considering governance options to secure environmental integrity and address the question of overall climate ambition. Drawing on an analytical framework that incorporates economic theory and deliberative jurisprudence, practical case studies, and treaty interpretation, this Working Paper maps central positions of actors in the negotiations and evaluates relevant options included in the latest textual proposal.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Tim Flannery
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute (IHEID)
  • Abstract: It is no longer possible to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement – of keeping average global temperatures to ‘well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C1 - without removing large volumes of CO2 from the atmosphere.2 This will involve the development and deployment of carbon negative technologies at the gigatonne scale. Because developmental pathways for such technologies are likely to be decades-long, it is necessary that largescale investment begin now, if we hope to have mature technologies operating at the appropriate scale by 2050.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Industrial Policy, Capitalism, Economic growth, Global Warming
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael A Mehling, Gilbert E. Metcalf, Robert Stavins
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Paris Agreement has achieved one of two key necessary conditions for ultimate success—a broad base of participation among the countries of the world. But another key necessary condition has yet to be achieved—adequate collective ambition of the individual nationally determined contributions. How can climate negotiators provide a structure that will include incentives to increase ambition over time? An important part of the answer can be international linkage of regional, national, and sub-national policies—that is, formal recognition of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for the purpose of meeting a Party’s own mitigation objectives. A central challenge is how to facilitate such linkage in the context of the very great heterogeneity that characterizes climate policies along five dimensions: type of policy instrument; level of government jurisdiction; status of that jurisdiction under the Paris Agreement; nature of the policy instrument’s target; and the nature, along several dimensions, of each Party’s Nationally Determined Contribution. We consider such heterogeneity among policies, and identify which linkages of various combinations of characteristics are feasible; of these, which are most promising; and what accounting mechanisms would make the operation of respective linkages consistent with the Paris Agreement.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus