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Climate Leadership Now

12. Global Governance, Meet the Tribe


Just did a deep read (so you don't have to) of a complex and useful book entitled "Global Climate Governance." It addresses the question of how Team Humanity might, or might not, solve the climate problem through cooperation.


Particularly useful for leaders is the authors' description of the universe of the specific organizations that are tackling climate change globally. All kinds of organizations at all levels of society are addressing CO2 reduction, climate adaptation, climate loss and damage, and climate justice. If you want to understand the big picture of where and how climate decision-making is happening, this short book is a must-read.


Authors Coen, Kreienkamp, and Pegram are on board with those of us who have observed that the 2015 Paris Agreement has failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but has at least kept people talking. They point to the potential of the Agreement to deepen cooperation by improving transparency around national climate policies and actions. They describe it as "a pragmatic attempt to address both coordination and cooperation problems through broad collective goal setting, dynamic ambition cycles and a shift toward national pledges and procedural commitments."


However, they caution that most countries "continue to have a strong incentive to avoid costly action on climate change, to wait for others to act and to negotiate for self-interested advantages." Their analysis is the latest take on the theory that Team Humanity is tribal. "Cooperation problems continue to stymie effective global climate governance," they write.


Helpfully, the authors frame the Paris Agreement as a paradigmatic shift. It is a "new phase of climate governance" that shifts action away from global institutions like the United Nations to "local institutional capacity." They note that one mid-range organization, the European Union, is "comparatively ambitious and successful" and may be a model for other regional approaches.


But, mainly, they argue, global change must now happen at the level of countries and their institutions. Even this will not be easy. Policy scholars Green, Hale and Colgan (2019) suggest there will be a "rocky road ahead" and "the stakes are whose way of life gets to survive."


Leaders may likewise conclude that they should focus on national rather than global solutions. Out go thoughts of "global institutional design" and "intergovernmental organizations." In come ideas like "bottom up" and "local" and "public buy-in."




David Coen, Julia Kreienkamp, and Tom Pegram.  (2020) Global Climate Governance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Green, J., Hale, T., and Colgan, J. D. (2019). The existential politics of climate change. Global Policy Blog [online]. 21 February 2019. www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/21/02/2019/existential-politics-climate-change.

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