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Global Climate Change Policy Without the United States: Thinking the Unthinkable

On November 9-10, 2012, Yale Law School, the Yale Climate & Energy Institute, and the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy will host a conference in New Haven, Connecticut, entitled “Global Climate Change Policy Without the United States: Thinking the Unthinkable.

Lawmakers, diplomats, academics, and other interested parties have traditionally discussed global climate change policy on the assumption that formal U.S. participation is necessary to achieve meaningful success – an understandable view given the substantial share of annual and historic greenhouse gas emissions that are attributable to the United States. Yet, for the better part of two decades, fracture and confusion regarding the U.S. position on climate change policy have complicated development of a robust international regime. At this juncture, increasing numbers of observers are asking whether it makes sense to continue to wait for the United States to come to the table. In response to mounting frustration over the U.S. role in international climate talks, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Frank Loy noted last year that “some are asking something even more fundamental: Is the U.S. governable?”

This conference will bring together leading experts from a variety of disciplines to consider how climate change might be addressed assuming a lack of formal, cohesive participation by the United States. Subject areas to be addressed by participants could include:

•  the comparative effectiveness of different policy instruments when a major developed country emitter is assumed to be on the sidelines;

• the use and GATT/WTO permissibility of trade sanctions against non-participants of a multilateral climate change agreement;

• the role of science in climate policy in the absence of United States participation;

• the potential of intellectual property law, development assistance, and other economic or market-based programs to spur clean energy innovation outside the United States;

• the prospects for and implications of geoengineering techniques to slow global warming and its impacts irrespective of greenhouse gas emissions by the United States;

• the possibility for new international bargaining strategies, linked negotiation opportunities, or geopolitical alliances to be opened up by the exclusion of the United States from proceedings; and

• the likelihood of subnational climate change efforts within the United States being integrated into a global climate regime.

In forcing confrontation of a political constraint that most observers assume is simply fatal to climate progress, this conference offers potential to further the intellectual development of climate policy as a field as well as to open an important new strand of practical discourse, one with potentially global and historic ramifications.

Registration is available online at http://globalclimatepolicy2012.eventbrite.com/.

Details on the agenda are available here. For more information, please contact Susanne Stahl at susanne.stahl@yale.edu.


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