Credible Commitments, Focal Points, and Tipping

Scott Barrett

in Climate Change and Common Sense

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199692873
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738371 | DOI:
Credible Commitments, Focal Points, and Tipping

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Why have the climate negotiations failed? How might we do better? This chapter answers these questions by relying on three of Tom Schelling's greatest insights—the importance of, and difficulty in, making credible commitments; the value of framing negotiations in a way that suggests focal points; and the role that tipping can play in creating positive feedbacks for emission reductions and treaty participation. The climate regime developed so far has failed to provide a credible enforcement mechanism, was framed in a way that made agreement difficult, and has stimulated negative rather than positive feedbacks. This is why so little has been achieved, despite so much having been invested in the negotiations. To do better, our approach must change. Our focus should be on negotiating obligations that can be enforced, on framing the negotiations to facilitate agreement, and on identifying sources of leverage for positive feedbacks. The chapter suggests ways in which we can do all of these things, as well as expressing doubt as to whether we can do enough to avoid possible catastrophes. As in other areas that have attracted Professor Schelling's attention, even the best policy cannot be sure of averting danger. There are no guarantees, only better or worse choices.

Keywords: climate negotiations; credibility; tipping; agreements

Chapter.  9901 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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