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Moving Forward in the Climate Negotiations: Multilateralism or Minilateralism?


  • Robyn Eckersley

    (Robyn Eckersley is Professor of Political Science in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and she directs the Arts Faculty's Master of International Relations Program.)


The slow progress of the international climate negotiations has generated calls for a shift from large-n multilateralism (inclusive multilateralism) to more streamlined negotiations that are confined to the major emitters whose support is crucial for an effective climate treaty (exclusive minilateralism). This article pushes critical theory in an applied direction to explore under what circumstances, if any, minilateralism might help to advance the climate negotiations. I show that inclusive multilateralism is unlikely to produce a timely climate treaty, while exclusive minilateralism is elitist, procedurally unjust, and likely to be self-serving. Instead, I defend inclusive minilateralism, based on “common but differentiated representation,” or representation by the most capable, the most responsible, and the most vulnerable. I also offer some practical suggestions as to how a minilateral climate council might be constituted, what its remit should be, and how it might be embedded in and answerable to the UNFCCC. © 2012 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Robyn Eckersley, 2012. "Moving Forward in the Climate Negotiations: Multilateralism or Minilateralism?," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 12(2), pages 24-42, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:12:y:2012:i:2:p:24-42

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:ieaple:v:17:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s10784-016-9336-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Robert Gampfer, 2016. "Minilateralism or the UNFCCC? The Political Feasibility of Climate Clubs," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 16(3), pages 62-88, August.
    3. repec:bla:glopol:v:8:y:2017:i::p:85-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Diarmuid Torney, 2015. "Bilateral Climate Cooperation: The EU’s Relations with China and India," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 15(1), pages 105-122, February.
    5. Philipp Pattberg & Ayşem Mert, 2013. "The Future We Get Might Not Be the Future We Want: Analyzing the Rio+20 Outcomes," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 4(3), pages 305-310, September.
    6. repec:bla:glopol:v:8:y:2017:i::p:113-123 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. James Ford & Michelle Maillet & Vincent Pouliot & Thomas Meredith & Alicia Cavanaugh, 2016. "Adaptation and Indigenous peoples in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 139(3), pages 429-443, December.
    8. Dryzek, John S. & Pickering, Jonathan, 2017. "Deliberation as a catalyst for reflexive environmental governance," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 353-360.
    9. Achim Hagen & Leonhard Kaehler & Klaus Eisenack, 2016. "Transnational Environmental Agreements with Heterogeneous Actors," Working Papers V-387-16, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2016.
    10. Berna Edoardo Berionni, 2013. "Regionalizzare la tutela dell’ambiente? Verso una sostenibilità su scala regionale: il caso dell’UE e dell’ASEAN," RIVISTA DI STUDI SULLA SOSTENIBILITA', FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2013(2), pages 107-128.
    11. Robert Falkner, 2015. "A minilateral solution for global climate change? On bargaining efficiency, club benefits and international legitimacy," GRI Working Papers 197, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    12. repec:aen:journl:ej38-4-kersting is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Cheng, Fang-Ting, 2014. "From foot-draggers to strategic counter-partners : the dynamics of U.S. and Chinese policies for tackling climate change," IDE Discussion Papers 476, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    14. repec:bla:glopol:v:8:y:2017:i:3:p:285-293 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    climate negotiations; climate science; environmental politics;

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming


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