International climate policy after Copenhagen: towards a ‘building blocks’ approach

Produced as part of the Climate change governance for a new global deal CCCEP research programme theme

Working Paper 21


This paper asks what can be hoped for the international climate change negotiation process in the wake of the 2009 Copenhagen conference, and what should be the strategy for those wishing to strengthen international climate change policy?

Many, if not all, countries in Europe and the developing world remain committed to negotiating a global climate deal that includes firm commitments for emission reductions. Other countries, including major emitters such as the United States, remain wary of this approach either because they believe it is unrealistic or because they would not wish to be legally bound by such a treaty. They prefer to build elements of global climate policy from the bottom up, by taking action at the domestic level. Major emerging economies such as China have similar concerns about sovereignty, but join the G-77 bloc of developing countries in demanding a legally binding framework for mitigation by industrialised nations. Little has thus changed in the way in which the major players in climate politics define their interests.

In the light of these conflicting positions, this paper reviews the options for future international climate policy. It argues that a major reassessment of the current approach to building a climate regime is required. This approach, which we refer to as the ‘global deal’ strategy, is predicated on the idea of negotiating a comprehensive, universal and legally binding treaty that prescribes, in a top-down fashion, generally applicable policies based on previously agreed principles. From a review of the history of the ‘global deal ‘strategy from Rio (1992) to Kyoto (1997) and beyond we conclude

Robert Falkner, Hannes Stephan and John Vogler