Is the answer to climate change in the clubs?

With progress largely stalled on reaching a global, meaningful, and enforceable agreement on cutting carbon emissions, could smaller multilateral groups, or "climate clubs" be the answer? Jennifer Morgan and Lutz Weischer of the World Resources Institute discuss: More and more climate-related clubs are emerging. For example, in February, the United States and five other governments ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images
ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images
ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images

With progress largely stalled on reaching a global, meaningful, and enforceable agreement on cutting carbon emissions, could smaller multilateral groups, or "climate clubs" be the answer? Jennifer Morgan and Lutz Weischer of the World Resources Institute discuss:

More and more climate-related clubs are emerging. For example, in February, the United States and five other governments launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. In August, the German environment minister announced plans to create an “international club of states committed to promoting the expansion of renewable energy.” And alongside the “Pre-COP” meeting, the Global Green Growth Institute held its first Assembly and Council meetings since the Seoul-based think tank was transformed into an international organization with 18 member countries.

However, they're not very optimistic about the current group of clubs, writing that "Their mandates and configurations are not focused on significantly increasing ambition, but rather on various pieces of the bigger puzzle. They do not dramatically reduce emissions at the scale and speed required to keep global temperature rise below 2°C."

With progress largely stalled on reaching a global, meaningful, and enforceable agreement on cutting carbon emissions, could smaller multilateral groups, or "climate clubs" be the answer?

More and more climate-related clubs are emerging. For example, in February, the United States and five other governments launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. In August, the German environment minister announced plans to create an “international club of states committed to promoting the expansion of renewable energy.” And alongside the “Pre-COP” meeting, the Global Green Growth Institute held its first Assembly and Council meetings since the Seoul-based think tank was transformed into an international organization with 18 member countries.

However, they’re not very optimistic about the current group of clubs, writing that "Their mandates and configurations are not focused on significantly increasing ambition, but rather on various pieces of the bigger puzzle. They do not dramatically reduce emissions at the scale and speed required to keep global temperature rise below 2°C."

The propose the establishment of more ambitious "two degrees clubs," in which small groups of countries would band together around specific emissions reductions. Countries could be enticed into membership through pledges on trade, investment, or technology sharing. 

Of course, with CO2 levels passing 400 parts per million, it’s certainly worth a try. Though it’s also worth keeping in mind that over 40 percent of global emissions come from a very exclusive club of two.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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