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Climate change negotiations—legally binding treaty or voluntary agreements: lessons from international action on tuberculosis


  • Peter Heywood

    Corresponding author
    1. Crawford School of Economics and Government, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
    2. Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC negotiations in Durban and Doha agreed to develop a new Kyoto Protocol (KP) in which neither the form nor content of future agreements are set—they are to be determined over the 3 years remaining before the 2015 deadline. Alternate architectures proposed for an international agreement on climate change range from those that retain many of the top-down, legally binding elements of the current KP through bottom-up voluntary agreements that are not dependent on a legally binding treaty. Given this wide range of suggestions there is value in assessing experience in other areas of sustained international cooperation that have not involved treaties. One such effort is international cooperation to control tuberculosis (TB). In contrast to the legally binding treaty approach of the KP, international action on TB rests on a voluntary agreement by member states at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1991, just a year before the UNFCCC was approved in Rio. An important characteristic of the TB agreement is that all countries (developed and developing) agreed on the importance of the problem, the targets set, and the ways in which measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) would occur. In contrast, the KP differentiated between nations, mandated targets for some and not others, and little progress has been made. The agreement to renegotiate the KP without commitment to form and content represents a new opportunity for climate change negotiations. Experience with international efforts to control TB provides an example of an international voluntary agreement that is yielding results. WIREs Clim Change 2013, 4:467–477. doi: 10.1002/wcc.237

Conflict of Interest: The author declares no conflicts of interest for this article.

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