Nur Europa kann Can’tcun verhindern

 newspaper article  Comments Off on Nur Europa kann Can’tcun verhindern
Nov 252010
 
Und jährlich grüßt das Murmeltier. Der nächste Klimagipfel steht an. Jedes Jahr Ende November trifft sich die Welt, um über das Schicksal ihres Planeten zu entscheiden. Die Chairs der unterschiedlichen Arbeitsgruppen legen ihre Vertragsentwürfe vor, im Plenum versichern sich die Staaten ihres guten Willens, die Umweltorganisationen stellen ihre Forderungen, und am Ende der zwei Wochen fliegen die Umweltminister für den finalen Showdown ein und entscheiden: wenig Konkretes.

Doch ganz so einfach ist es nicht. Es geht ja doch vorwärts, wichtige Einigungen sind erzielt worden, nur eben insgesamt viel zu langsam. Um dem Klimawandel tatsächlich Einhalt zu gebieten, da ist sich die Wissenschaft weitgehend einig, darf die globale Erwärmung zwei Grad Celsius in diesem Jahrhundert nicht übersteigen. Für die Industriestaaten heißt das: Reduzierung um bis zu 90 Prozent. Noch immer ist ein Inder für weniger als ein Sechstel der Emissionen eines Durchschnittseuropäers verantwortlich. Doch der Ausstoß steigt in fast allen Ländern weiter an.

[Weiter zu meinem Gastbeitrag in der Wiener Zeitung]

From Flop’enhagen to Can’tcun? US climate policy before the mid-term elections and the UN summit

 magazine article  Comments Off on From Flop’enhagen to Can’tcun? US climate policy before the mid-term elections and the UN summit
Oct 202010
 
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co2_climateIt all started so nicely. The hope for change that Barack Obama had raised among American voters was felt by citizens worldwide, including those yearning for a change in US environmental policy. After all, Obama had made global warming and energy policy important cornerstones of his campaign. Once in the White House, the newly elected President explained that “few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change” and that his “presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change.” Repeatedly he stressed that “the nation that wins this competition [for new energy technologies] will be the nation that leads the global economy.”

What’s left, as we approach mid-term elections in Obama’s first administration, is a very mixed bag.  There have been important successes, including over $60 billion that were earmarked for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; the first tightening of Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards in three decades; and the federal Environmental Protection Agency ‘s “Endangerment Finding” that recognizes, as a follow-up of the Supreme Court ruling Massachusetts et al. vs. EPA, that the  agency  has the right to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. To the great disappointment of the environmentalists, however, comprehensive climate and energy legislation, including a market-based system with mandatory economy-wide emission targets as well as strong incentives for the employment of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies, has not been passed.

The situation that has unfolded over the last 1 ½  years is almost absurd. A White House and all involved secretaries and agencies support strong climate policy; a majority of the public wants effective climate action; a thorough climate and energy bill finally passed the House; and then there is also majority support for climate legislation in the Senate – albeit this majority is not filibuster-proof. The Senate’s leadership was unable to get 60+ votes. And here the story ends for now. A minority of 40+ Senators puts a hold on domestic legislation and shuts a historic window of opportunity.

[This article appered in Bridges vol. 27, October 2010. Read the rest of the article here: http://www.ostina.org/content/view/5229/1390/]

Small Portugal Thinks Big – and Very Green!

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Aug 262010
 

By Camille Serre and Alexander Ochs

After having shed some light on French climate and energy legislation, let’s proceed with our review of European progress toward clean energy economies. Typically, the Scandinavian countries and Germany have set the example in the European renewables field. Yet lately, a Southern country—Portugal—has attracted media attention after delivering its National Renewable Energy Action Plan to the European Commission this June.

In 2009, Portugal ranked 3rd in Europe in wind power capacity per capita - Flickr Creative Commons / Mafalda Moreira Santos

In 2009, Portugal ranked 3rd in Europe in wind power capacity per capita - Flickr Creative Commons / Mafalda Moreira Santos

Portugal has made dramatic changes in its energy policy over the last five years under the government of Prime Minister Jose Socrates. The country’s installed renewable energy capacity more than tripled between 2004 and 2009, from 1,220 megawatts (MW) to 4,307 MW, and renewables now represent roughly 36 percent of electricity consumed. Thanks to this performance, Portugal currently ranks 4th in Europe in energy production from renewables. Socrates seems to know what he is doing, and it looks like his previous experience has paid off. Like Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, Socrates was Minister of the Environment before becoming head of his country’s government. The environment seems to be a springboard for European politicians’ careers.

Of course, Portugal benefits from favorable conditions for renewables as well: a strong wind resource, great hydropower, good tidal waves potential, and a high sunshine rate. After the country removed several dams in recent years, Socrates’ government has focused instead on wind power development, under most conditions the cheapest renewable energy source after hydropower. With spectacular growth in wind energy production of over 600 percent between 2004 and 2009, Portugal now ranks 6th in Europe in total installed capacity and 3rd in capacity per capita, behind only Denmark and Spain. Some even expect Portugal to overtake its neighbor Spain in per capita wind energy production as early as this year.

[Read both parts of this blog on the ReVolt website]

Green Deal or Great Disillusion? France Passes Climate-Friendly Legislation (Part 2 of 2)

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Aug 182010
 

by Camille Serre and Alexander Ochs

In Part 1 of this blog, we described the climate and energy measures that France plans to pursue as part of its new environmental law, Grenelle 2. This set of policies suggests that France may in fact be paving the way toward a low-carbon economy. Unfortunately, the picture is tarnished by an ongoing controversy about renewable energy development in the country. 

Grenelle 2 certainly contains some positive measures in the renewables sector. For instance, it sets a goal that 23 percent of France’s energy use must come from a mix of renewable energy sources by 2020—most likely from hydropower (the nation’s largest renewables source so far), wind power, and biomass. The law calls for regional climate and energy mapping to assess climate-related risks within the country as well as to determine domestic energy needs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, adaptation strategies and monitoring instruments will be developed. In addition, local and regional authorities that are responsible for 50,000 inhabitants or more, as well as companies with over 500 employees, will be required to conduct emissions assessments.

[Read the rest of this ReVolt blog here]

Green Deal or Great Disillusion? France Passes Climate-Friendly Legislation (Part 1 of 2)

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Aug 172010
 

with Camille SerreGrenelle

While the United States is unlikely to pass a climate bill in the near future, there may be greater hope from one of the country’s closest allies: France. A few months ago, France passed a major bill that will deeply transform the country’s environmental law, including its approach to climate change. But while the outcomes of the measure are promising, a variety of criticisms remain.

After an exhausting legislative process, the “Grenelle de l’Environnement” ended with the adoption of the “Grenelle 2” bill this May. Enacted on July 13, three years after the process was launched by then-newly elected president Nicolas Sarkozy, the new legislation covers environmental topics such as climate and energy, biodiversity protection, public health, sustainable agriculture, waste management, and the governance of sustainable development. In addition to being a comprehensive environmental bill, Grenelle 2 implicitly defines the French sustainable development strategy for years to come.

Grenelle de l’environnement was named after the so-called “negotiations of Grenelle” on wages that took place in 1968, when France was paralyzed by a general strike. Back then, the primary negotiators were the government, unions, and employers. The Grenelle de l’environnement, launched in 2007, extended the consultation to five main stakeholder groups—the State, employers, unions, environmental NGOs, and local governments—to bring it more in line with the participatory nature of sustainable development.

On the climate front, France is likely to meet its current emissions reduction goals. [Read the rest of this ReVolt Blog here]

Bye-bye, Klimapolitik der USA

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Aug 052010
 
http://inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2010/07/Climate-Bill-Shelved-2.jpg

Kerry und Reid geben ihre Klimapolitik vorest auf

Erkennbar enttäuscht traten Harry Reid, Mehrheitsführer der Demokraten im US-Senat, und Parteikollege John Kerry, Senator aus Massachusetts und ehemaliger Präsidentschaftskandidat, vor die Kameras. Monatelang hatten sie für eine umfangreiches klima- und energiepolitisches Gesetzespaket gekämpft. Nun gaben sie kleinlaut bei. Man habe die notwendigen Stimmen nicht, um ein Emissionsziel für Treibhausgase festzulegen. 2001 aus dem Kyoto-Protokoll ausgestiegen, seit 20 Jahren der gewichtigste Bremser bei internationalen Klimaverhandlungen, zeichnet sich die nächste Schlappe für amerikanische Klimaschützer ab.

Doch nicht nur für die Umwelt ist die Nachricht eine Katastrophe. Dutzende Studien belegen die positiven Effekte, die die geplante Gesetzgebung auf die US-Wirtschaft, den Arbeitsmarkt, die Gesundheitskosten und die Sicherheitspolitik gehabt hätte. Ganz zu schweigen vom internationalen Renommee, das jetzt den nächsten Kratzer erhält. Die USA zeigen sich immer weniger in der Lage, auf die großen globalen Herausforderungen unserer Zeit tragfähige Antworten zu geben. Schuld daran ist nicht, dass „der Amerikaner“ eben nichts vom Umweltschutz hält. Das Problem ist differenzierter: [weiter zum vollstaendigen Artikel]

Sharp Decline in EU Emissions as Europeans Debate Reduction Target

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Jun 082010
 

 Co-author: Shakuntala Makhijani

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

 The European Environment Agency (EEA) yesterday released its greenhouse gas inventory for 2008, showing a two-percent fall from 2007 levels across EU-27 countries and an 11.3-percent reduction from 1990 levels. The new data also show that the EU-15 (the 15 only EU members in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated) have reduced emissions by 6.9 percent since 1990, putting those countries on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitment of reducing 2008-2012 emissions by an average of 8-percent below 1990 levels. The European Commission points out that the EU-15 emission reduction—a 1.9-percent drop from 2007 to 2008—came as the region’s economy grew 0.6 percent, suggesting that economic growth and emissions cuts can be compatible.

Just last month, the European Commission had announced that emissions covered under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) fell even more rapidly: verified emissions from covered installations were 11.6-percent lower last year than in 2008. EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard cautioned that these reductions are largely due to the economic crisis, as opposed to ambitious actions by covered industry. The crisis has also weakened price signals in the trading scheme and slowed business investment in emissions-reducing innovations.

Earlier this year, the European Commission began arguing that the Union should commit to deeper cuts than a 20-percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, calling instead for a 30-percent decrease. It released figures showing that, largely due to the economic crisis, the annual costs for cutting emissions will be lower than originally estimated by 2020. In 2008, the EU estimated that €70 billion per year would be necessary to meet the 20-percent target, but this cost estimate has now fallen to just €48 billion. For a 30-percent target during the same timeframe, the new projected annual cost is €81 billion—only €11 billion more than what EU countries have already accepted under the 20-percent target.

[Please read the rest of the blog on ReVolt]

Successful Transatlantic Media Dialogue Ahead of Copenhagen Climate Summit

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Nov 172009
 

17__MediaDialogue__pic2,property=InhaltsbildFrom November 9 to 11, around 25 German and U.S. journalists and climate policy experts met at the Aspen Wye Conference Center on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to discuss the climate policy in Europe and the U.S. in view of the upcoming Copenhagen climate summit. The event was part of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, and it not only aimed at providing journalists with the latest facts and figures on the summit but gave the participants the opportunity to exchange their views on the public debate in their respective countries, the status quo of the legislative process in Germany and the U.S., and the impact of climate change and respective policies on the economy and the international security, among others.

Read more on Germany.info

Towards a Global Green Recovery – Supporting Green Technology Markets

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Towards a Global Green Recovery – Supporting Green Technology Markets
Sep 212009
 

Two major global challenges – the financial crisis and climate change – make it urgent to rally the world behind the idea of a “green new deal” or a “global green recovery.” The financial crisis puts renewable energy projects and business at particular risk. The recession has caused a drop in energy and carbon prices that reduces the market competitiveness of clean technologies. In addition, the tightening credit markets mean that cleantech initiatives, which frequently face high capital costs and higher risk premiums, are struggling to find the necessary funding.

The risk of stagnation is especially disruptive to the cleantech industry as it comes on the heels of a rapid growth period prior to the financial crisis. In Germany, the cleantech sector grew 27% between 2005 and 2007, employed almost 1.8 million people, and now accounts for more than 5% of industrial production. From 2002 to 2007, global new investment in sustainable energy grew nearly 16-fold, from an annual US$7.1 billion to US$112.6 billion. The financial crisis created a severe investment shock in the cleantech sector, with new-investment levels in the first quarter of 2009 just under half what they were one year earlier.

This is absolutely the wrong time for a lull in cleantech investment. The International Energy Agency estimates that about 540 billion US dollars must be invested annually in renewable energy and energy efficiency if climate change is to be maintained at or below a 2°C increase in global average temperature. A significant expansion in investment will be required to reach these levels, with about 80% of the investment needed in just three key sectors: electrical power, transportation and buildings.

Several proven policies for expanding cleantech investment already exist, including feed-in tariffs, risk-mitigation policies, green-procurement policies, and government R&D spending, to name just a few. The key challenge for policy makers in trying to support the establishment of clean-technology markets is how to accelerate the implementation of these measures by obtaining the necessary funding and spending public monies wisely in a way that leverages the private sectors’ capability to shoulder the bulk of the needed investment.

To help G20 nations overcome these challenges, the German Federal Foreign Office asked Atlantic Initiative – a think tank on international politics and globalization based in Berlin and Washington, DC – to develop specific and actionable policy recommendations on how to provide effective international support to green technology markets and push the issue in the G20 framework. It was suggested that Germany, the UK and the US should be the main targets of these recommendations as they are well positioned to take a joint leadership role in setting the right incentives for a global green recovery and future growth path building on the idea of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge and taking into account London’s role as the G20 host. I was a co-author of the report. Please find it here.

On the road to Copenhagen, hope springs eternal

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Jun 262009
 

cop15_logo_imgHalf a year before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, negotiators are far from agreeing on key components of a global climate deal. As envisioned in the 2007 Bali Climate Action Plan (or “Bali Roadmap”), the summit in December is supposed to deliver a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which expires at the end of 2012.

Ever since Bali, however, progress in the negotiations has been slow. Only recently have the delegations entered full negotiation mode—which is necessary right now, the most pivotal year since the 1992 UNFCCC. From June 1 to 12, more than 4,600 participants—including government delegates from 183 countries as well as business, industry, environmental organizations and research institutions—met in Bonn, Germany, to discuss key negotiating texts that will serve as the basis for an agreed Copenhagen outcome. The gathering in Germany was the second in a series of five major U.N. negotiating sessions this year leading up to the Copenhagen summit in December (…).

Please find the full article in Grist Magazine here.

Profiles in Transatlantic Cooperation: Alexander Ochs

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Aug 212008
 

In: Carbon & Climate Law Review 2/2008, pp. 219-21

You have worked on transatlantic climate relations for several years, both as a researcher and as a policy adviser. In a report written in 2006, you suggested that there is “little that cannot be done if Americans and Europeans agree – but very little that can be done if they do not”, expressing concern that climate change might become an issue dividing the transatlantic partners further apart. Has this assessment changed since you first wrote this, and if so, in what ways?

The first quote is actually an assessment made by Jessica Tuchman Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment, concerning global issues in general. Certainly, climate change has gained infamous prominence over the course of the last two decades as a topic dividing the two traditional partners Europe and the United States. It often heads lists of transatlantic disagreements. Transatlantic dispute over climate change well precedes the current U.S. administration. Ever since the topic of climate change has appeared on the international agenda, the United States has been made responsible for the slow progress in the negotiation of an international climate regime. But the dispute escalated when the Bush ‘43 government unilaterally declared the Kyoto protocol “dead”. Subsequently, Bush also broke his 2000 presidential campaign pledge to set mandatory reduction targets for CO2 emissions from… Read the whole interview here: C&CLR.Interview.pdf

Europa Riding the Hegemon? Transatlantic Climate Policy

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Europa Riding the Hegemon? Transatlantic Climate Policy
Jul 282008
 

Alexander Ochs & Detlef F. Sprinz

Prominent and committed supporters of friendly transatlantic relations have identified climate change as the most important global problem in this century. To counteract major impacts of climate change requires cooperation among the major emitters of so-called greenhouse gases or agreement on compensation for impacts. Since 2001, the U.S. has abandoned the international treaty architecture of the Kyoto Protocol which is presumed to be a first step in the direction of limiting global climate change. Since much of the rest of the world – but not all – countries have subscribed to the architecture of the Kyoto Protocol, a major rift has arisen between Europe and the U.S. with the former being a fervent defender of the architecture and the latter designating it as unworkable and against its interests. In this article, we will investigate the history of transatlantic climate policy and relations, the major items of contention, as well as options for a rapprochement on global climate change.

2008 Book Chapter in Hegemony Constrained: Evasion, Modification, and Resistance to American Foreign Policy, edited by D. B. Bobrow

2005 Ridgway Center Working Paper

Neue Chance gegen globale Erwärmung

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Jun 252008
 

Tony Blair sucht beim G8-Gipfel den transatlantischen Schulterschluss in der Klimapolitik. Doch Amerika wird sich kaum rühren.

Mit dem Hinweis, der Klimawandel sei für ihn die langfristig wichtigste globale Herausforderung, sagte Tony Blair der globalen Erwärmung den Kampf an. Zusammen mit der Entwicklung Afrikas gilt dem Thema das Hauptaugenmerk des Gipfels der acht größten Industrieländer im schottischen Gleneagles vom 6. bis 8. Juli. Doch während etwa bei der Entschuldung der ärmsten afrikanischen Staaten bereits im Vorfeld Einigkeit erzielt wurde, besteht in der Klimafrage die Spaltung zwischen den Vereinigten Staaten und dem Rest der G8 fort: Der größte Verursacher von Treibhausgasen verweigert unter der Führung von George W. Bush weiterhin jegliche Zusagen zur Emissionsreduzierung – entgegen allen wissenschaftlichen Empfehlungen. DIE ZEIT, 7 Jul 2005

From Mars and Venus Down to Earth: Understanding the Transatlantic Climate Divide

 academic article/report  Comments Off on From Mars and Venus Down to Earth: Understanding the Transatlantic Climate Divide
Jun 252008
 

Josh Busby & Alexander Ochs

We examine the sources of the transatlantic climate divide between the US and Europe. First, we take up the proposition that differences in the material conditions of the US and Europe are responsible for the dustup over global warming. We argue that relative power positions do not determine a nation’s choice of broad climate policy approaches. Moreover, we emphasize that mitigating climate change will ultimately require wrenching policy adjustments for both the US and Europe. While there may be short-run differences in cost profiles, these should not pose such a hindrance that careful policy design cannot overcome them. Next, we evaluate the claim that a difference in values or culture is responsible for the rift. A highly oversimplified version of the argument holds that Europeans just care about climate change more than the Americans. We find evidence for this to be mixed. We suggest that differences between the US and Europe derive not so much from material interests or cultural values but from different political systems that shape the interests and values that have influence on policy. America’s political system permits certain interests—namely climate skeptics and business interests—to exercise veto power over external environmental commitments. European decision makers, by contrast, face environmental movements more capable of exercising influence over electoral politics. The interaction of the two systems internationally has hobbled global climate policy cooperation. Negotiations are complicated by inadequate sensitivity to each other’s internal political conditions. Better understanding of each other’s domestic politics and more careful institutional design of climate change policies may yet overcome these obstacles. 2005 SAIS-BROOKINGS BOOK CHAPTER

Wanted: Leadership

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Wanted: Leadership
Apr 092008
 

President George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol (KP) brought transatlantic differences over climate change to the front pages. Climate change since then has become the symbol of an underlying transatlantic rift with respect to a wider range of global challenges. The disagreement on climate between the traditional partners has been difficult to understand ever since negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started. It carries dangerous implications for both sides and the globe as a whole. What is needed now is true leadership on both sides of the Atlantic to overcome the divide. Could this momentum be generated, it might set free a positive impetus for other fields of global governance.

Book Chapter, in: Alex Riechel/Aldo Venturelli, Building a Foundation for Transatlantic Climate Policy, Loveno 2005, p. 51-62 (PDF)

Towards a Transatlantic Consensus on Climate Change

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Towards a Transatlantic Consensus on Climate Change
Apr 092008
 

Alexander Ochs & Aldo Venturelli (Eds.)

 

With contributions from Fabrizio D’Adda, Kevin Baumert, Corrado Clini, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, Michael Grubb, Benito Müller, Friedemann Müller, Alexander Ochs, Michael Oppenheimer, Nigel Purvis, Arthur Runge-Metzger, Richard Stewart, Laurence Tubiana, Harlan Watson, Anders Wijkman et al. Loveno, May 2004, 127 pages

Complete text (PDF)

Konflikt statt Kooperation? Die transatlantischen Umweltbeziehungen

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Konflikt statt Kooperation? Die transatlantischen Umweltbeziehungen
Apr 092008
 

Alexander Ochs & Marcus Schaper

Mit dem Ausstieg der USA aus dem Kyoto Protokoll gerieten die transatlantischen Differenzen im Umweltbereich in die Schlagzeilen. Klimapolitik wird seither häufig an vorderer Stelle genannt, wenn es um das Auseinanderdriften der traditionellen Partner geht. Dabei sind Meinungsunterschiede zwischen Europa und den USA in der Umweltpolitik alles andere als neu. Viele dieser Konflikte bleiben einer breiteren Öffentlichkeit jedoch verborgen, da sie technische Fragen betreffen und auf der wenig prominent besetzten, administrativen Arbeitsebene ausgetragen werden. Dieses Kapitel bespricht drei neuere Beispiele transatlantischer Umweltpolitik. Der internationale Klimaschutz, Umweltstandards für Exportkreditagenturen sowie die Regulierung Genetisch Veränderter Organismen (genetically modified organisms – GMOs) haben sich allesamt als wichtige und äußerst konfliktträchtige Themen im transatlantischen Verhältnis herausgestellt. Dies ist zuvorderst darauf zurückzuführen, dass es sich bei ihnen nicht mehr um den klassischen Naturschutz der Anfangszeit der Umweltpolitik handelt, sondern um politische Querschnittsaufgaben im Rahmen wirtschaftlicher Globalisierung mit enormem Einfluss auf andere Politikbereiche. Es geht um sensible Kosten-Nutzen-Abschätzungen und Absprachen unterschiedlicher Ressorts der Innen- und Außenpolitik.

BOOK CHAPTER in: Jäger, Thomas/Höse, Alexander/Oppermann, Kai (Eds.), Transatlantische Beziehungen, Wiesbaden 2005, p. 235-53

PDF

Nach Nairobi: Wie weiter in der internationalen Klimapolitik?

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Nach Nairobi: Wie weiter in der internationalen Klimapolitik?
Mar 082008
 

Europa ist auf der Suche nach einem klimapolitischen Kompass für die nächsten Jahre.

Vom 6. bis 17. November 2006 fanden in der kenianischen Hauptstadt parallel die zwölfte Konferenz der 189 Vertragsstaaten der Klimarahmenkonvention und das zweite Treffen der 168 Mitgliedsländer des Kyoto-Protokolls statt. Die Verhandlungen wurden mit dem erneuten Hinweis eröffnet, dass es sich beim Klimawandel um die wohl größte globale Herausforderung in der Geschichte der Menschheit handelt. Die Konferenzergebnisse nehmen sich demgegenüber eher mager aus. Deutschland und Europa wollen die internationale Klimapolitik weiter anführen. Was sind die großen Herausforderungen?

SWP Diskussionspapier, Januar 2007