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Making the Paris Process More Effective: A New Approach to Policy Coordination on Global Climate Change

Charles F. Sabel and David G. Victor
Policy Analysis Brief
February 2016

The Paris conference on climate change featured a new “bottom-up” approach to negotiating commitments. After years of failed efforts to create integrated, top-down agreements that are acceptable to all nations, this new approach produced an agreement, and provided auspicious overtones for execution in the years ahead.

Decomposition of the grand problem of climate change into smaller units is a crucial first step toward effective cooperation. It allows flexibility for individual countries to tailor their own best strategies. It allows small groups of countries to work together on focused problems, rather than requiring all nations sign on to the same global undertaking. And it allows, in time, diplomats to stitch together more effective global bargains from these many decentralized efforts.

This policy analysis brief examines the prospect that Paris also provides an umbrella under which these many efforts can proceed and start a process of experimentation and bargaining that will lead to more effective international coordination.

Fixing these problems will require an active “after Paris” process to improve the quality of the pledges that countries are making as well as the institutional machinery needed to review and assess which policies actually work. Failure to build those institutions could relegate Paris to yet another in the long series of hopeful moments over the last 25 years in climate diplomacy that, in time, have little real impact on solving the climate problem.

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