Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

The Hard Reality for International Climate Agreements in the United States

Bill Brownell, Scott Stone

April 2014

Atlantic Council


The release of the second installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report provoked the usual calls for urgent and immediate action in response to climate change, including in particular at the international level in the form of a new climate treaty built upon domestic regulatory regimes. But these calls overlook the political realities that would confront any international climate agreement in the US Senate. Additionally, given the soaring use of coal around the world, this emphasis on laws and treaties neglects far more achievable opportunities to meet climate and other environmental goals in balance with energy, economic, and security priorities through the further development and broader deployment of advanced coal technologies.

This Energy & Environment Program paper, authored by Bill Brownell and Scott Stone of Hunton & Williams, outlines the legal and political aspects facing future climate change treaties and the more promising dimensions of energy and technology policy.