Narrowed Constellations in a Supranational Climate Change Regime Complex: The 'Magic Number' is Three

82 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2013 Last revised: 25 Mar 2014

Date Written: March 1, 2014


The world needs a supranational-level solution to climate change within very few years. Nonetheless, much existing scholarship almost stubbornly continues to promote solutions that are still too broad to be viable within a realistic timeframe. This article breaks with these theories and posits that effective climate change action can be instigated by a much lower number of nations than what has been promoted thus far, and that this is the only realistic solution in the scientifically proved timeframe in which catastrophic climate change can still be avoided.

Such minilateralism among fewer nations is a more realistic solution with greater potential for more targeted and effective results. However, a crucial question remains to be answered in this context: what is the “magic number” at which a supranational governance system is the most likely to be able to develop a solution that not only has some substantive effect, but that can also act as a catalyst for further treaty membership increase and/or replication in other contexts? This article provides the answer: It is three. The United States, China, and the EU, and Brazil or India will be able to move forward the agenda that was reinvigorated in 2012 when negotiations to develop a successor treaty to the now-expired Kyoto Protocol got back on track at the meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”).

In providing this answer, the article critically examines a few of the world’s most successful treaties. Some of these have unfortunately become largely forgotten about in today’s rush to what seems to be an attempt to reinvent the treaty wheel. They provide important lessons to learn for anyone interested in international environmental law.

Keywords: climate change, climate agreement, climate treaty, climate clubs, climate myths, UNFCCC, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, post-Kyoto, minilateralism, exclusive minilateralism, multilateralism, progressive multilateralism, international environmental law, develop

Suggested Citation

Dellinger, Myanna F., Narrowed Constellations in a Supranational Climate Change Regime Complex: The 'Magic Number' is Three (March 1, 2014). 37 Fordham Int'l L.J. 373 (2014), Available at SSRN: or

Myanna F. Dellinger (Contact Author)

EinStrong Foundation ( email )

Pasadena, CA
United States

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