The Climate Regime: Achievements and Challenges

In Davor Vidas and Peter Johan Schei (eds), The World Ocean in Globalisation. Leiden/Boston, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers/Brill, 2011, pp. 165-186.

This chapter describes and analyses the process of climate negotiations since they started more than 20 years ago. The goal of the chapter is threefold: to assess what has been achieved, explore main factors that have attributed to this outcome and to briefly discuss future developments. Three milestones are evaluated, the Climate Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and briefly, the Copenhagen Accord/Cancun Agreement. Effectiveness varies somewhat depending upon the measuring rod used. However, overall effectiveness is deemed to be rather modest. A main explanatory factor is the malign nature of the problem characterized by incongruity, asymmetries and deep-seated political and normative conflicts. An important explanatory factor is also the strong influence of the US through most of the process, playing the role as a laggard. The EU has been the most persistent pusher but has not been able to generate the critical mass of followers. More recently China and other emerging economies have become much more influential and this has not made progress easier. Considering the present political situation in the US, as well as the bleak economic outlook in key countries, the prospects for a strong follow up to the Kyoto Protocol seems bleak. As no binding agreement can be expected in the short-term, there is a need to also consider soft terms approaches through other established venues. It is important to have close link between various approaches to forge synergies and avoid conflicts. Considering expected projections in terms of economic growth and population increase in the South, the long-term perspectives also looks bleak unless some technological 'silver bullet' is discovered.