The Future of the UNFCCC: Adaptation and Institutional Rebirth for the International Climate Convention
59 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 18, 2012
On the twentieth anniversary of the negotiation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the fifteenth anniversary of the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, it is time for the global community to reflect on the future of our system of global climate governance. This article argues that the valiant efforts of the global community to negotiate a post-Kyoto treaty system have arrived at a crossroads and that instead of focusing on finding the single “right” pathway forward, there is a need to pursue multiple pathways. The conventional wisdom that we need one, consensus-based, comprehensive treaty is wrong or – more accurately – woefully incomplete. There is a continuing need for an international, top-down system that defines the parameters of global goals, obligations and relationships. However, the optimistic vision of this top-down system as a great enabling device is no longer viable. Multilateralism and multilateral legal mechanisms remain essential. Yet, regardless of when a new international climate agreement emerges or what form it takes, it will be too little and too late unless there exists a web of multi-level, multi-scale systems to give meaning and life to its provisions. Focusing on adaptation, this article suggests that diversifying international efforts to support a more multifaceted system of climate governance is a matter of efficacy and institutional integrity. In key part, the article concludes that in order to move forward with efforts to address climate change and, in particular, adaptation, the UNFCCC must embrace institutional reform and find ways to more effectively orchestrate the emerging multi-level governance system.
Keywords: climate change, UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, adaptation, institutional reform, polycentric theory, legal pluralism
JEL Classification: K32, K33, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation