International Climate Cooperation: Clear Recommendations, Weak Commitments

In Steinar Andresen, Elin Lerum Boasson and Geir H√łnneland (eds), International Environmental Agreements: An Introduction. London/New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 49-67.

It took a long time from the scientific discovery of the climate problem for it to be translated into international political action. However, progress was made with the political and scientific institutionalization of the process in the 1990s. The scientific process under the aegis of the IPCC has had significant cognitive impact. The normative effect of the Climate Convention has been less convincing. The Kyoto Protocol has had some effect in terms of sprurring various forms of actions, but emissions have still continued to rise as the Protocol in practise does not apply to many main emitters. The jury is still out on the effect of the bottom-up, 'pledge and review' approach codified in the Cancun Agreement. Why has substantial progress been so limited? The main reason is the 'malign' nature of the problem as it affects all countries economies and development paths in a major way. The problem-solving ability of the regime has also been hampered by fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the issue within the North as well as between the North and the South. If a long-term solution to the problem is to be found, technology is the key. The failure of global environmental diplomacy to deliver may also open up for other more exclusive soft-law approaches. If so, it is important that synregies are forged between the various approaches to avoid conflicts.