Fair and effective multilateralism in the post-Copenhagen climate negotiations

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

Climate Policy

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town


University of Cape Town

Copenhagen failed to agree a new legal treaty, and fragmentation is now a possible scenario. What options exist for a fair and effective multilateralism that might bring about the next turning point? Possible changes are considered in the context of the ‘how, what, where and who’ of multilateral climate negotiations. Fair process is crucial to an acceptable outcome. In order to increase effectiveness, multilateralism may need to define contributions from smaller groups, on a representative basis. The functions of other fora must be to build common understanding, whereas decisions and agreements are negotiated under the UNFCCC and its instruments. Reorganization of work within the UNFCCC will need to enhance its catalytic role, including how it supports domestic action. A mix of processes is needed to speed up the pace of decision-making, combining well-established UN procedures with some innovative ideas including those from the theory and practice in other multilateral environmental agreements. A review in 2015 must increase ambition. We need to invest in the UNFCCC, which remains the only legitimate, fully inclusive forum. Only a legally binding agreement ensures that others also act (‘fair’) and a binding nature is the best assurance of implementation (‘effective’). Equity demands a fair and effective outcome.