Will the nations of the world achieve the initial goals they set for themselves in the FCCC and, more importantly, the goals they will need to set to achieve a significant slowing in the rate of climate change? Many years will need to pass before any serious assessment can be made of that issue. Indeed, the nature of the climate change problem means that the regime will never be able to solve the climate change problem but will, at best, find ways to manage it over time (Clark, 1989). The initial obligations and compliance mechanisms established under the regime appear to have laid a useful foundation for progress in that direction. The enforcement mechanisms seem unlikely to be used frequently. Yet the flexibility granted to governments in when and how to meet their targets seems likely to induce high compliance with first commitment period targets. Some countries will make significant and costly efforts to meet those targets. More states are likely to take advantage of the regime's flexibility to comply without making significant domestic emission reductions, acquiring emission credits that are likely to be quite cheap because of the availability of hot air credits. In the short term, legal compliance with limited behavioural change is likely to produce only small changes in the global trajectory of GHG emissions.

This pessimism is mitigated, however, by two factors. First, some states will respond to the regime's requirements by adopting policies and behaviours that they would not have otherwise adopted. Some new policies to encourage conservation will be tried. Some more efficient technologies for producing and using energy will be developed. Some more climate-attentive approaches to land use, land-use change and forestry will be explored . Although these changes are unlikely to be significant before the end of the first commitment period, they nonetheless will contribute in small but immediate ways to averting climate change and provide the foundation for social learning that can contribute in much greater ways in the future (Social Learning Group 2001a; 2001b).

Second, and far more importantly, creating high compliance with the Kyoto targets (even if it is empty compliance without corresponding behaviour changes) will foster a shift in normative dialogue regarding behaviours that contribute to climate change. Such a shift to climate change behaviours being assessed within a logic of appropriateness is essential if governments and private actors are going to engage in the behaviours needed to avert climate change: behaviours that will, undoubtedly, be costly when measured in strictly material terms. The regime must -and its flexibility mechanisms make it more likely to - progressively convince a wide range of currently hesitant and resistant actors that acting to avert climate change is worthwhile even when the immediate costs of doing so are high. This dynamic social process of reframing climate protection as the only appropriate behaviour will help to establish a regime in which most actors focus on making concerted efforts to prevent climate change, regardless of whether those actions fall short of or go beyond some legal definition of compliance. Thus, the flexibility mechanisms that, at present, appear only to make empty compliance more likely may, over time, initiate social processes that lead to deep-seated normative changes that, in turn, may produce the dramatic, long-term changes in human behaviours that are necessary to avert climate change.

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