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US and THEM or the EU and the US; a comparative analysis of US and EU environmental law and policy approaches to global environmental problems

Final Activity Report Summary - US AND THEM OR THE EU (US and THEM or the EU and the US. A comparative analysis of US and EU environmental law and policy approaches to global environmental problems)

Over the past thirty years, the state of our planet has increasingly deteriorated. In particular, global warming has been identified as the most serious threat to our planet's existence. In the face of mounting and undisputable evidence on the precarious state of our planet, this project has examined the state and adequacy of the international actions undertaken to address environmental problems. The research in particular examined the crucial role that the United States plays (or does not play) in addressing global warming. As noted in the research proposal presented in 2003, divisions in the international community on how to deal with global environmental problems have impaired the effectiveness of such efforts. In particular, the division between the United States (US) and Europe on the best strategy to deal with climate change and biodiversity has been the object of this research project.

The research found that several instruments have been adopted in the US to tackle global warming. Notwithstanding its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, the US has engaged internationally to find a solution to this environmental problem.The research highlighted the existence of several initiatives in the US on climate change. The main concern though is that these initiatives are mainly at the state level and that there seems to be a lack of strong federal mandatory measures. However, pressures from both states, civil society and congress may eventually force the federal government to take stronger leadership on this matter (coupled with mounting evidence of the serious consequences of inaction). The international response to climate change needs to take into account the US's concerns on the current strategy and reach a compromise on the means to tackle climate change. Unless international action is fully inclusive (e.g. both the US and developing countries must be on board), it is highly unlikely that global warming will be halted. The European Union leadership in this respect points in the right direction in our view: strong action with both compulsory and market based solutions. The EU leadership needs to find a way to persuade the US of the possibilities offered by climate change. The final part of this research project will focus on the possible convergencies to find a united strategy between the US and EU to move forward.

To sum up the key findings are as follows:
1) The lack of strong leadership at the federal level in the US is a serious problem for effectively tackling global warming.
2) The US, however, is addressing the problem at both the federal and state level with initiatives which will contribute to dealing with this crucial environmental crisis.
3) The lack of a federal initiative is, in our opinion, only a question of time. It is highly likely that following the 2008 presidential election, progress will be made on a more ambitious strategy on climate change at the federal level.
4) The lack of strong measures in the US is not the only cause for concern though. The absence of binding targets and timetables for developing countries is equally problematic for properly addressing global warming.
5) Action to bring the US and the developing world within an agreed international framework is crucial for the success of the international action. The research found some scope for optimism in the US.