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Efforts to slow global warming are finally getting underway, with the launch, among others, of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme and several non-federal US initiatives to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

In this article, David Victor, Joshua House and Sarah Joy of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University, United States, describe these and other efforts as "laboratories" where different experimental approaches to tackle climate change take place.

They argue that such a 'disjointed', bottom-up approach is unlike the UN Kyoto Protocol's attempt at a global solution but better for finding solutions that suit many different parties, and can later be coordinated.

They point to three areas in which progress is needed. First is a framework to coordinate the individual efforts, which they suggest should involve fewer actors than existing international treaties. The Canadians have suggested a group of 20 leaders from the North and South.

Second, they say, the US government must develop an effective response to global warming. 

And finally, global efforts must engage developing countries, which are increasingly responsible for global emissions but need to balance this with their development needs.

The authors say that such a strategy could be similar to the individual efforts being undertaken in the North: they could focus on the terms and needs of each developing country.

For instance, they could come up with ways for India and China to have greater access to natural gas reserves, thus cutting down their consumption of coal, which produces far more carbon dioxide.

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 309, 1820 (2005)