CANCUN, Mexico -- By now it appears clear that there will be no new binding global climate change treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol when its current commitment period expires in 2012. So what should come next?
Developing countries, led by China, want to renew Kyoto. But that would exempt from action both the United States, which is not a party to Kyoto, and China, which under the terms of the treaty is not bound to cut its carbon emissions. Negotiators in Cancun have talked about putting together a package of agreements on discrete elements, such as prevented deforestation and technology transfer, to come into force after Kyoto expires. Some nations, such as the island state of Papua New Guinea, say that the U.N. process has failed, and it's time for nations and major economies to take action in bilateral and multilateral agreements.
What other options are on the table? Will any effort other than a binding international treaty be enough to meaningfully reduce global greenhouse gas emissions? In the absence of domestic climate legislation, what can the United States do to salvage a global climate agreement?