Achieving Early and Substantial Greenhouse Gas Reductions Under a Post-Kyoto Agreement

The Georgetown Int'l Law Review, Vol. 20, p. 573, 2008

Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-38

47 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2008 Last revised: 20 May 2013

See all articles by John C. Dernbach

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Date Written: March 23, 2008


This article explains why policy makers should seriously consider substantial early reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as a part of any post-Kyoto framework, and sets out suggested elements of a framework for early action in a post-Kyoto agreement. Substantial early reductions are needed because of the growing urgency of the climate change science, the precautionary approach identified in the Framework Convention on Climate Change as a decision-making principle, the fact that cost-effective measures are now available, and the significant non-climate benefits (security, economic, social, and environmental) that can be achieved by implementing them. As a practical matter, too, long-term greenhouse gas emissions are virtually impossible without short-term reductions. The Convention also includes ethical obligations on developed countries to take leadership in addressing climate change and to reduce impacts on developing and vulnerable countries - which require early and substantial action.

The suggested framework for early action includes a short-term goal for stabilizing global greenhouse gas emissions, involves both developed and developing countries, and includes an agreement to deepen the emissions reduction commitment of the Kyoto cap-and-trade program. In addition, the parties should negotiate separate agreements concerning particular policies or economic sectors. These additional agreements make substantial short term emission reductions more likely, or increase the size of those emissions reductions. This appears to be true regardless of how the cap-and-trade part of the agreement is structured. The article proposes a process for identifying, agreeing to, and implementing policies and measures that will maximize the benefits resulting from short-term action. This legal structure would supplement, not replace, any system for achieving long-term goals that emerges from the Bali Action Plan.

Keywords: climate change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Bali Action Plan, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuels, sustainable development, energy efficiency, trading, cap and trade, precautionary approach, ethics, equity, development, common but differentiated

JEL Classification: K20, K29, K32, K33, Q20, Q25, Q28, Q30, Q40, Q41, Q01

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C., Achieving Early and Substantial Greenhouse Gas Reductions Under a Post-Kyoto Agreement (March 23, 2008). The Georgetown Int'l Law Review, Vol. 20, p. 573, 2008, Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-38, Available at SSRN: or

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

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