Abstract

The slow progress of the international climate negotiations has generated calls for a shift from large-n multilateralism (inclusive multilateralism) to more streamlined negotiations that are confined to the major emitters whose support is crucial for an effective climate treaty (exclusive minilateralism). This article pushes critical theory in an applied direction to explore under what circumstances, if any, minilateralism might help to advance the climate negotiations. I show that inclusive multilateralism is unlikely to produce a timely climate treaty, while exclusive minilateralism is elitist, procedurally unjust, and likely to be self-serving. Instead, I defend inclusive minilateralism, based on “common but differentiated representation,” or representation by the most capable, the most responsible, and the most vulnerable. I also offer some practical suggestions as to how a minilateral climate council might be constituted, what its remit should be, and how it might be embedded in and answerable to the UNFCCC.

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