A Minilateral Solution for Global Climate Change? On Bargaining Efficiency, Club Benefits, and International Legitimacy

Robert Falkner

Eisbaer, Thalarctos maritimus, polar bearGridlock in the multilateral climate negotiations has created growing scholarly and practical interest in the use of minilateral forums. A large variety of climate club proposals have been developed in recent years, which promise more effective bargaining among the main climate powers, better incentives to encourage mitigation efforts and discourage free-riding, and new ways to align international power asymmetries with the interests of the global climate regime. I investigate the three dominant rationales that underpin minilateralist proposals. I offer a critical review of their potential as well as their limitations in promoting global climate action. I argue that minilateralism is unlikely to overcome the structural barriers to a comprehensive and ambitious international climate agreement. However, climate clubs can enhance political dialogue in the context of multilateral negotiations and can provide a more conducive environment for great power bargaining. They can create club benefits that strengthen mitigation strategies and help reduce the dangers of free-riding for so-called coalitions of the willing. And they can help re-legitimate the global climate regime against the background of profound power shifts that have slowed down progress in the multilateral negotiations.

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Perspectives on Politics, Volume 14, Issue 01, March 2016, pp 87 – 101
Published online by Cambridge University Press 21 Mar 2016