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Connect the Dots: Managing the Fragmentation of Global Climate Governance

van Asselt, Harro, Fariborz Zelli. 2012. Connect the Dots: Managing the Fragmentation of Global Climate Governance. Earth System Governance Working Paper, No.25.


The debate about post-2012 global climate governance has been framed largely by proponents and opponents of the policymaking process established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In light of the proliferation of institutions governing some aspects of climate change, analysts have asked whether a centralized or a polycentric climate governance architecture will be more effective, efficient, equitable, or viable. While these are valid questions, they obscure the fact that global climate governance is already polycentric, or rather: fragmented. This paper argues that the more pertinent questions are how to sensibly link the different elements of global climate governance, and what the role of the UNFCCC could be in this regard. We examine these two questions for three aspects of global climate governance: international climate technology initiatives; emerging emissions trading systems; and unilateral trade measures. The paper shows that there are strong arguments for coordination in all of these cases, and illustrates the possible role of the UNFCCC. It concludes, however, that possibilities for coordination will eventually be limited by underlying tensions that will plague any future climate governance architecture.

The Working Paper is available here (pdf).

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