I end a series of posts on the Copenhagen climate conference with this one to reiterate why governance has to be at the heart of future climate negotiations. For nearly two decades climate negotiators have been trying to get deals on reducing greenhouse gas emissions but they have largely failed to develop the institutions that would make such deals credible. Any future climate deal will have a combination of emissions reductions or controls, financing, monitoring, and development and transfer of cleaner technologies. While all this is on the agenda for climate meetings, there is a real gap between substantive discussions on emissions and those on other aspects of climate governance. If we have to get beyond the Copenhagen impasse, negotiators, political leaders and ordinary citizens have to recognise the realities of unequal power in world politics. And we have to find win-win strategies for collaboration on technology development, organise more efficient but also more representative coalitions to manage negotiations, and build capacity for better information collection, analysis and exchange.
In an op-ed for the Financial Express today, I argue that the chaos on the streets of Copenhagen and the frustration with the negotiations inside the Bella Center show a mirror to the world of international diplomacy and global governance. For international regimes in general, Copenhagen offers lessons for agenda-setting and participation, negotiations and rule-making, and implementation, monitoring and enforcement of commitments. Read the article here.
During my week in Copenhagen I was asked to contribute to Opinio Juris, a forum of reputed international law and international relations scholars. I argue that negotiations are stuck because we are unable to break out of the moulds that have defined our positions for nearly two decades. The massive trust deficit that plagues the negotiations can only be broken if we take a more honest approach towards debunking seemingly dichotomous and exclusive positions: a choice of public over private finance; a trap of us versus them stemming out of a fear of competition; and a stalemate over what comes first, commitments or conditionality. Continue reading the article, Red herrings in debates over climate finance, here.
The success or failure of Copenhagen will depend not only on the substance of the deal but on the spirit and message of the talks as well. The legitimacy of any climate agreement will depend on answers to four questions:
1. Where will the deal get struck and who will participate?
2. How will commitments be implemented?
3. Who will pay for the sharing of burdens?
4. How will firms and private citizens respond to the signals that come out of the climate negotiations?
My article on the GEG blog, Making Copenhagen count, engages with these questions to highlight the prevailing and potential tensions in climate change discussions. A longer list of my current research on climate change governance (on technology transfer, financing, trade and climate links, monitoring and enforcement) is available here.
Lotteries are games of pure chance. Poker is a game of part chance, part strategy. Climate negotiations hinge on, among other things, creating a pool of finance to share the burden of mitigating and adapting to climate change. The game is not one of a winner taking all by sheer luck, but of who contributes how much to the common pot. No country is willing to act first; doing so would be to fold. Countries are taking a chance on the level of aggregate effort needed to avoid dangerous climate change, but their strategy is to avoid revealing preferences.
The absence of internationally enforceable mitigation commitments means that the burden on climate finance will increase. Unilateral promises will depend on whether sufficient financing is available to achieve the scale of actions needed. So, who will pay, how much, and through which mechanisms? I explore some of the games being played in climate finance and the implications for the Copenhagen meetings in my latest op-ed in the Financial Express, Even climate is about money.
I am an Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellow, currently based at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton. I work on global governance issues, including trade, climate change, human development, foreign policy, international institutions, natural resources, development assistance, conflict and extremism.