A minilateral solution for global climate change? On bargaining efficiency, club benefits and international legitimacy


Gridlock in the multilateral climate negotiations has created growing scholarly and practical interest in the use of minilateral forums. A large variety of climate club proposals have been developed in recent years, which promise more effective bargaining among the main climate powers, better incentives to encourage mitigation efforts and discourage free-riding, and new ways to align international power asymmetries with the interests of the global climate regime. This paper investigates the three dominant rationales that underpin minilateralist proposals. It offers a critical review of the their potential as well as limitations in promoting global climate action. It argues that minilateralism is unlikely to overcome the structural barriers to a comprehensive and ambitious international climate agreement. However, climate clubs can enhance political dialogue in the context multilateral negotiations and provide a more conducive environment for great power bargaining. They can create club benefits that strengthen mitigation strategies by so-called coalitions of the willing and help reduce the dangers of free-riding. And they can help re-legitimate the global climate regime against the background of profound power shifts that have slowed down progress in the multilateral negotiations.