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30 Apr 2012    Books/ Book Chapters
Cottier, Thomas


Confidence-Building for Global Challenges: The Experience of International Economic Law and Relations

A book chapter authored by Thomas Cottier, in "Ruth Greenspan Bell, Micah S. Ziegler, Barry Blechman, Brian Finlay, and Thomas Cottier. Building International Climate Cooperation: Lessons from the weapons and trade regimes for achieving international climate goals. Edited by Ruth Greenspan Bell and Micah S. Ziegler. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2012".

The increasing pace of climate change, and society’s heretofore insufficient attempts to reduce our impact on the climate, challenges us to develop new ideas about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to rapid change. The causes of climate change are clear, and its impacts—from rising sea levels to melting glaciers to disappearing forests—are widespread. Climate change is a global concern still in need of global ambition and action.

In Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, 195 countries agreed to another round of climate negotiations. This process opens a window for fresh thinking about how to increase the ambition in tackling climate change. While work will continue toward a unifying agreement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), prudence suggests also investigating new ideas and additional forums. This report adds to the growing body of research that offers approaches toward this objective.

In Building International Climate Cooperation, the World Resources Institute (WRI) adds to the literature by spotlighting what climate negotiators might learn from colleagues working in two other arenas for many decades: control of weapons of mass destruction and economic relations such as trade and investment. Ruth Greenspan Bell and Micah S. Ziegler of WRI dig into these
fields and other sources to consider what might be applicable in the climate negotiations given their unique history. Bell’s and Ziegler’s overview focuses first on building trust and means of verification. Their analysis leads them to explore broader lessons, such as ways of making progress when major players stall and the potential for decoupling issues or assigning them to other bodies.

Complementing and providing background for the overview are papers  written from the point of view of experts in weapons control and economic law. These experts start from their knowledge of negotiations in their arenas and apply their experience to the challenge of climate change. A paper by Barry Blechman and Brian Finlay of the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., examines how incremental progress on controlling nuclear weapons was made in a range of forums. A second paper by Thomas Cottier of the World Trade Institute in Bern, Switzerland, outlines the many elements of law and institutions governing trade and other economic issues at the global, regional, and bilateral levels. He notes that economic law is based on reciprocity balancing concessions and commitments. It has been most successful using bottom-up processes and building consensus on package deals.

We hope that this report will inform and stimulate further dialogue on additional pathways toward the existential imperative of capping and reducing global greenhouse gases. Some focus, naturally, will be on the UNFCCC process itself. However, we should not limit ourselves to only one forum.

Confidence-Building for Global Challenges: The Experience of International Economic Law and Relations