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Events & Media - Climate Conference

International Conference Produces New Recommendations for Addressing Climate Change

The Santa Barbara Consensus

Santa Barbara, Calif. – A brief but bold document supporting a “truly new” energy system that includes decentralized energy production and storage, and a phased system of per capita equal emission rights for the world emerged from a recent climate conference hosted by the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with specific recommendations for addressing global climate change.

"The Santa Barbara Consensus" was written jointly by a group of high-level climate experts representing scientific, academic, government, and diplomatic perspectives. They convened at the Bren School and other Santa Barbara locations Nov. 13-15 for what was called the “California-European Dialogue on Climate Change: A Transatlantic Initiative During the Portuguese EU Presidency.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Bren School, the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the Blackstone Ranch Institute in New Mexico, the Heinrich-Böll Foundation in Germany, and the Luso-American Development Foundation in Portugal. It was intended as an opportunity to exchange best practices and the latest thinking from the EU, which has several years of experience in meeting the mandates of the Kyoto protocol, and California, which has established itself as a national leader in addressing climate change issues.

The preamble of the two-page Consensus document addresses the lack of federal action to this point by saying, "United by a concern about lagging action, Californians and Europeans are forging new international partnerships with countries, states, municipalities, and local communities around the world to combat global climate change."

The first section of the document then addresses the need to "Forge new local-national-international networks to fight climate change," the second mentions ways to "Make progress on the international climate change agenda," and the third describes the need to "Get all developing and developed countries on board" as "an urgent priority." More specific recommendations are included for each of the three areas.

The complete text of the document appears below. It will be delivered to European Union President José Manuel Barroso prior to the upcoming climate meetings in Bali, which are being held to start the work of drafting a successor to the Kyoto Treaty in Denmark in 2009, prior to the Kyoto Treaty’s expiration in 2012. It is also being sent to State Resources Secretary Michael Chrisman, a member of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cabinet and the Bren School Dean's Advisory Board and part.


Here is the full text of "The Santa Barbara Consensus on Climate Change."

A majority of participants agreed on the following points:

United by a concern about lagging action, Californians and Europeans are forging new international partnerships with countries, states, municipalities, and local communities around the world to combat global climate change. These coalitions are breaking the mold of traditional diplomacy and reflect a growing recognition that business-as-usual approaches are inadequate to the climate challenges we face. Such new networks are necessary to spark action at the local level and to advance a new international consensus on climate change.

Action must be taken in three broad areas.

1. Forge new local-national-international networks to fight climate change.
It is important to build these innovative networks to improve cooperative technology research; link scientific communities; set up purchasing consortia to lower the prices of energy saving products; develop new business models and speed up the development of green technologies and products; create and deploy common measurement tools and internet based communications systems that will allow municipalities to establish a baseline on their greenhouse gas emissions; and to share what works and does not work at the local level. These new networks are important complements to concerted and urgent action on the current agenda facing the international community.

2. Make progress on the international climate change agenda.

a) Support the emergence of a global carbon market as a cost-efficient mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to promote clean technology. Linking the EU’s Emissions Trading System with emerging trading schemes in California and elsewhere can provide emissions reductions at a lower cost. In this regard, the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP), launched in October 2007, is an important precedent.

Such systems must:

• include a low cap on greenhouse gas emissions sufficient to prevent dangerous human interference with climate;
• use auctioning instead of free allocation of emission rights;
• offer long-term financial and investment stability;
• be able to be linked to comparable trading systems.

b) Promote a post-Kyoto global climate protection agreement in Copenhagen in 2009 with negotiations starting in Bali in December 2007. The agreement needs to include all developed and developing countries to achieve necessary emission reductions.

c) Improve impact assessments and construct adaptation strategies to counter the adverse effects of climate change, particularly in developing countries. Improve cooperation on international monitoring, including continuous use of satellites, to benefit reforestation, fighting fires, floods and droughts and other extreme events.

d) Create a truly new energy model, available to developed and developing countries alike, that

• is efficient with regard to production, transport, distribution and use;
• is characterized by low, and aims for zero, carbon content;
• enables consumers also to be producers of energy through decentralized renewable generation and storage;
• eliminates the traditional division between demand and supply and encompasses simultaneously all major energy needs: electricity, heat and transport;
• creates open, smart energy grids offering diversified and decentralized storage.

3. Get all developing and developed countries on board as an urgent priority.
Developing countries tend to perceive injustice in global warming, which has largely been caused by the developed North but disproportionately disadvantages the developing South. One attractive way of meeting this criticism is to create a phased system of per capita equal emission rights. Such a system would help to create effective incentive structures, both in the South and North, for decoupling economic prosperity from greenhouse gas emissions. International agreements should be structured to make each country better off by joining.

View the conference agenda

View participant biographies