In most institutions, individuals range from highly competent to barely qualified. And they also range from a real pleasure to a real pain to work with. Such a range of individuals may exist in any organization, and the international climate change negotiations – otherwise known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – is no exception.
I’m pleased to say that Kelley Kizzier, my guest in the latest episode of our podcast, “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program,” is an outlier in both of those dimensions. She is highly competent and exceptionally engaging. That made me particularly happy to have an opportunity to sit down with her for this podcast.
Kelley Kizzier is well known – and highly respected – by those who have labored in the international climate negotiations over the past 15 years. But hers may be a new name to some of you. So, please read on.
Kelley was the European Union’s lead markets negotiator in the climate negotiations for 14 years. And for the last three years of that period, she also served as the UNFCCC co-chair of the negotiations on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, a key part of the Agreement, which we’ve had an opportunity to discuss in previous episodes of the podcast – with Andrei Marcu, Paul Watkinson, Jos Delbeke, and Sue Biniaz.
Before beginning work with the EU in Brussels, Kelley held senior roles in Dublin with the Irish Environmental Protection Agency. And most recently, since 2019, Kelley has served as Associate Vice President for International Climate at the Environmental Defense Fund.
Our conversation was wide ranging, including Kelley’s professional background, the evolution of the UNFCCC, the structure of the Paris Agreement, and the challenges and opportunities now facing the climate negotiations. Through it all, she demonstrates considerable optimism, mixed with a healthy dose of realism.
In addressing a question about the postponement of COP-26 in Glasgow, Scotland, originally scheduled for November, 2020, she remarks that “the postponement of the COP should not delay urgent action by countries to step up their ambition. And I hope that no one finds comfort in that delay, that we are still urgently looking to up our game in terms of ambition.”
Kelley cites several recent positive developments in international climate policy, particularly in the EU where its new “Green Deal” may be implemented. The Deal stipulates even more significant carbon emission reductions than the 40% cut that was previously promised by the EU member states.
“It’s a centrist acceleration of established EU climate policy,” she says. “And through that, they have announced that they’re going to take that target to 50 or even 55% reduction by 2030 [as compared with 1990 levels].”
Looking forward to the re-scheduled COP-26 in November, 2021, Kizzier expresses her optimism that nations will be prepared to finalize the rules (the so-called “Rulebook”) of international climate policy cooperation (and carbon markets) under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.
“COP-26 is about ambition, and it’s going to be important, in that context, to push for us to complete The Paris Rulebook. Because the rules matter, and we can’t afford to lock in carbon market rules that undermine the integrity of the targets,” she says. “Agreement on these rules, as important as it is, should not be a barrier to action. We simply can’t afford delay.”
All of this and more is found in the latest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” Listen to this latest discussion here. You can find a complete transcript of our conversation at the website of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.
- Gina McCarthy, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Nick Stern of the London School of Economics discussing his career, British politics, and efforts to combat climate change
- Andrei Marcu, founder and executive director of the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition
- Paul Watkinson, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Jos Delbeke, professor at the European University Institute in Florence and at the KU Leuven in Belgium, and formerly Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action
- David Keith, professor at Harvard and a leading authority on geoengineering
- Joe Aldy, professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, with considerable experience working on climate change policy issues in the U.S. government
- Scott Barrett, professor of natural resource economics at Columbia University, and an authority on infectious disease policy
- Rebecca Henderson, John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, and founding co-director of the Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard Business School.
- Sue Biniaz, who was the lead climate lawyer and a lead climate negotiator for the United States from 1989 until early 2017.
- Richard Schmalensee, the Howard W. Johnson Professor of Management, and Professor of Economics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.