December 23, 2015 2:57 pm

Methane is different @ COP21

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Methane accounts for a third of the radiative forcing that warms the world. Yet for mitigation purposes under COP21 its impact is simply translated into CO2. That is likely not the best approach.

The form of governance needs to fit the dynamics of the underlying system.

Methane is emitted from agriculture, waste and the oil&gas industry, in roughly similar measure. See my report “The other knob:Tackling methane emissions presented at COP21.

With COP21 the theory of change for climate mitigation has shifted from a binding top-down approach in Kyoto, to a more dynamic bottom-up framework. Elinor Ostrom (Ostrom 2009) has argued that UNFCC top-down approach was not appropriate for the governance of the carbon commons. In a lucid paper for the World Bank, she argues for a more polycentric approach. In Complexity and the Art of Public Policy (Colander and Kupers 2014) the case is made for why certain systemic problems are best addressed with ‘ecostructure policies’, a combination of diverse bottom-up and strategic top-down action. The shift in approach at COP21 is consistent with these views.

This holds for CO2 and methane from agriculture. However methane emissions from the oil&gas industry are highly concentrated in relatively few players and largely disconnected from other systems – so they would paradoxically better be managed in the earlier top-down manner. One option presented may be pricing methane emissions independently from CO2.

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