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An alternative framework for negotiating climate policies


In this paper, we make two points about bottom-up approaches to climate policy. First, we argue that it is more productive to work with a small group of countries to establish the basis of a global climate regime than tackling the issue with all countries, as in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Secondly, we argue that negotiators should also work explicitly to encourage the development and deployment of clean technologies as a way to reduce future emissions, and suggest how this might be achieved.

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  1. In general parlance tipping refers to a situation where there is a sudden change in the behavior of a system. In the present context a change of policy by members of a tipping set leads to a change by all others. The timescale is not explicit but one can imagine the change to be abrupt.

  2. Technical details of this approach are developed further in Cremeans et al. (2012) and Shafran and Lepore (2011).

  3. See Barrett (2003) for more details on the Montreal Protocol and the reasons for its success.

  4. This distinction between tipping and cascading was first formalized by Dixit (2003).

  5. There could still be a timing problem, in that the replacement of fossil fuels by carbon-free ones, though guaranteed to happen eventually, might not occur fast enough to ensure that we stay within the widely accepted 2 degree C target.

  6. For more discussion of this point see Jaffe et al. 2005.

  7. See Lovei 1998 and Newell and Rogers 2003 for a detailed discussion of the history of lead phase-outs.

  8. White House Press Release November 11 2014, available at

  9. In fact it is possible that the U.S.-China agreement was important in generating the momentum that led to the Paris agreement of 2015.

  10. To date the European Union has been the only entity willing to go ahead and reduce emissions on its own, and it is linkages to the rest of the world have not been great enough to produce the tipping effects we are seeking.

  11. That is not including external costs.


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Correspondence to Geoffrey Heal.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “Alternate Structures for Global Climate Action: Building Blocks Revisited” edited by Richard B. Stewart and Bryce Rudyk.

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Heal, G., Kunreuther, H. An alternative framework for negotiating climate policies. Climatic Change 144, 29–39 (2017).

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JEL classification

  • Q28
  • Q42
  • Q 54
  • Q 58