Political and Social Considerations


An important aspect to spurring international and domestic action on climate change is understanding the political and social framework for which environmental policy functions. Below is a brief summary on the foundations and factors of environmental and general policy making.

One aspect is the Nation-Nation aspect, which involves multilateral environmental regulation and secretariats of larger organizations, such as the United Nations. An example of nation-nation agreements is the Montreal Protocol that called for reductions of chlorofluorocarbons in light of ozone depletion among countries ranging from Afghanistan to the United States (UNEP, 2004). Nation-nation agreements are key to international negotiations, first, because the implemented policy must accommodate existing political structures and, second, because much of the international political structure is based on treaties between nations. In order to achieve more effective negotiations between countries we should focus on bilateral and regional regulation before extending to multilateral ones since the former do not involve international intermediate agencies and reduces the amount of bureaucracy needed for agreement. Thus, we emphasize a more decentralized approach to global action in order to accommodate the various existing environmental policies and treaties.

Bilateral Contracts

A component of this decentralized approach is bilateral contracts. Bilateral contracts are treaties between any two countries on a negotiated and agreed policy. In order for bilateral contracts to succeed, equality in knowledge and open information are needed for a fair and healthy relationship between two states and their relative administrations. This can be achieved by introducing “procedural justice” such as EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) during legislation to minimize transnational disputes and maximize the effect of negotiation and decision-making. The EIA is a set of criteria and accompanying laws that the United States used in the National Environmental Policy of 1969 that outlines the positive and negative environmental impacts of a policy or project based on scientific knowledge whereas the SEA is the European Union's means to incorporate environmental considerations into policies (Global Development and Reseach Center, 2009). In short, EIA based on proper implementation and negotiations after laws are made while SEA stress on continuous discussion starting from the legislation.

Such assessments are exclusively important when it comes to non- reciprocal relationships such as the origin and receptor of “pollution” where one country is responsible for emissions but another country bears the impacts. In terms of CCS, this would correspond to things such as CO2 pipelines and transportation as countries would need to cooperate on where to transport what since each country has a different capacity to do either. For example, country A with substantial storage capacity may be the sole receptacle for the carbon dioxide of country B, which has no storage capacity. Because of the varying geography and emissions standards among countries, the EIA and SEA model both provide a structure to evaluate, mediate, and negotiate these issues that arise from an international system of carbon capture and sequestration.

Multilateral Contracts

In addition to considering the logistical aspects of policy negotiation, we must also consider what solutions to incorporate in the policy. We adopt energy efficiency standards, cleaner energy technologies, and carbon capture and sequestration as our feasible solution in the next 100 years. Our basic plan is to stabilize emissions with a cap-and-trade system, bring and maintain global emissions to zero with renewable and related technologies, and reduce the parts per million concentration of carbon dioxide with CCS. In the policy implementation state, it becomes necessary for us to combine EIA and SEA into the overall decision-making system [Graaf and Jans, 2009, p. 17].

In addition to bilateral contracts, there are also multilateral contracts, which involve one or more intermediate organizations and secretariats, who act as judiciaries. On top of all the concerns in bilateral policy implementation, the efficiency of implementation of states involved is decided by the characters of the intermediate organizations as well. meaning additional bureaucracy is involved, which slows down negotiations. In other words, the more actors involved in negotiations, the longer it takes to reach consensus.

Inconsistency and policy-fragmentation remains an obstacle to many environmental policies. Without comprehensive reconstruction, policy-implementation would be difficult since
each association and secretariat has partial power and thus, limited jurisdiction, over their respective organizations. Lack of cooperation and coordination with non-environmental organizations among different economic, science, and political sectors in the status quo may also hinder the progression of international negotiations. Having a thorough understanding and knowledge on the target issues as well as how these issues are interrelated is key to maximizing policy-making efficiency. Not doing so may result in inefficient
policy-making and use of resources, especially in the case of CCS where science and politics is closely interlinked.


Carbon capture and sequestration on global scale no doubt needs a series of comprehensive contracts and agreements among nations in addition to domestic agreements within a country's energy sector on the local and private level to achieve a coordinated international effort. In terms of implementation, given the wide array of actors, such as governments, businesses, and multinational corporations, an international organization should oversee regulations, disputes, national/regional laws while still maintaining the balance between centralization and decentralization. Due to the technological potential, economic and political viability, and risks carbon storage, each country or region may have to deal with issues unique to their political structure, economic capacity, and geography. Thus, an international plan must have the flexibility to incorporate all of these factors in such a way that balances aggressive action and the existing structure of international politics.

Implications for CCS implementation

The success of CCS on the international stage is contingent on whether its benefits outweigh the costs. The initial cost of CCS is large because it must cover capital costs such as construction. Thus, transitioning into a less carbon-intensive economy faces a major obstacle of initial upfront costs. However, since the overall benefit of an industry using CCS in conjunction with cleaner energy technologies may result in greater energy efficiency and savings incentives in the future, we need to establish an incentive. Positive incentives may include salable byproducts, long-term investment, and subsidies. Negative incentives include a tax, bans, stricter environmental standards, emission caps, and restrictions from governments. Governments must carefully consider the two kinds of incentives in national regulations and make rational adjustments over time to respond to market changes and maturation. In doing so, government actors may use the EIA and SEA models to have a criteria for understanding which incentive to use. These considerations are necessary for any emissions reductions policy to be effective. The most essential lessons to incorporate into an international framework for emissions reductions is to have a decentralized and flexible approach. The solution proposed by the Mission 2013 class may be found under the Solutions page and the Mission Protocol.

Determining Liabilities


One of the most challenging questions is who pays for all of these different technologies. Since every country in the world has contributed to carbon in the atmosphere, every country should contribute to the total cost of carbon capture and sequestration.  However, since different countries emitted different levels of carbon, we decided to rank countries based on one factors---percentage of total carbon emissions emitted in 2007.


The issue of liability is one of the most difficult political aspects to mitigating climate change because the initial costs of transitioning from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies and energy. Negotiating which countries bears the larger burden of responsibility presents one of the classic challenges in any environmental policy- the tragedy of freedom in commons. According to this theory, acting on self-interest is more likely than cooperation as personal benefit may outweigh community gain. Because the environment is a public commodity and there exist few property or liability rights to regulate its use, it is more beneficial for a country to abuse its use of the environment. What results is Hardin’s tragedy of freedom in commons, where each individual benefits but the community as a whole is left with ruins (Hardin, 1968). Since each country individually benefits from absolving responsibility of its emissions, the probability of international cooperation on climate change is lessened. The best modern example of this is between the United States and China. Until recently, the United States was the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, with the rise of China, the United States has consistently made domestic action on emissions reductions contingent on the actions of China and vice versa. This same stance occurred in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. Originally, the Kyoto Protocol became the initial means “to produce an outcome that rationally self-interested states could not produce on their own” and thus attempt to resolve competing interests between mutual cooperation and non-cooperation (Sunstein, 2007). However, the United States abstained from ratifying the Protocol because it lacked a provision on binding agreements for developing countries.



Please note that these rankings may change accordingly as countries reduce their carbon emissions



In terms of the proposed liability model, carbon emissions were included because high carbon emitters have and will cause the the problem of climate change and need more technologies to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere they have caused. Percent of total carbon emissions were used instead of carbon emissions per capita because doing so would take the data out of context, namely that China, the highest carbon emitter in the world would have 1.17 tonnes per capita, ranking 167th in the world while the highest carbon emitter per capita is Qatar, which emits less than 1% of the world's carbon emissions. Thus, total carbon emissions is preferential because it is the more accurate measurement of contributions to global emissions.

Factors such as GDP and GDP growth were not included in the model because basing liability solely on percent of carbon emissions makes each repsective country responsible to only focus on emissions reductions without the risk of equivalently taxing economic growth or size. Although these two factors are important to determining a nation's ability to afford the proposed plan of implementation, percentage of global emissions reflects the correlation between industrialization and emissions.



Percentage of Total Global Emissions by Country (generated by Microsoft Excel)







Below is a table of the top 17 carbon emitters in the world and coefficients representing the total cost of sequestration they would pay for. These numbers were obtained from percentage of total carbon emissions.




Country Percentage of Total Worldwide Carbon Emissions  Ranking (% Liable)
China 21.5 21.5
US 20.2 20.2
EU 13.8 13.8
Russia 5.5 5.5
India 5.3 5.3
Japan 4.6 4.6
Germany 2.8 2.8
United Kingdom 2.0 2.0
Canada 1.9 1.9
South Korea 1.7 1.7
Italy 1.7 1.7
Iran 1.6 1.6
Mexico 1.6 1.6
South Africa 1.5 1.5
France 1.4 1.4
Saudi Arabia 1.3 1.3
Australia 1.3 1.3
Brazil 1.3 1.3  


All statistics from the United Nations Statistics Division, 2009 and International Monetary Fund, 2009.


Qualitatively, according to the data above, China has the largest portion of responsibility to take action for emissions reductions. The differences of ratings between countries gives a relative picture of how much more a nation is liable. For example, although the United States is second to China in terms of responsibility, the proportion of liability is much closer than compared to the United States and Brazil. Because percent of total emissions and GDP growth varies annually, these rating may also change. A quantitative analysis of these ratings reveals that China is more liable to take action than the United States by a difference of approximately three. Thus, a difference of one point on a ranking is approximately less than one percent of the total worldwide cost.




As with any model, the one proposed is not a perfect indicator of liability but it is an accurate one to determine relative responsibility. There are many economic and political factors that were not taken into account that may have affected the individual rankings of countries. However, the two largest factors of percent of total global emissions give a method of quantitatively measuring liability and the larger international picture of how policy negotiations may move forward.