29 Multipolarity and the New World [Dis]Order: US Hegemonic Decline and the Fragmentation of the Global Climate Regime (2011)

J. Timmons Roberts


In Copenhagen in December 2009, two decades worth of hard, international negotiations to address climate change by thousands of participants seemed to have broken down. On the line was the ability of the United Nations system to manage a problem vast in scale, devastating in potential consequences, and entirely “wicked” in complexity. Old local, national and international political structures have strained to adapt to the biophysical, political, and economic uncertainties of the day. Climate change thus appears to be a defining and crucial test of a “New World (dis)Order” in the making (see Sonnenfeld and Mol, 2011).

The “New World dis(Order)” seen at Copenhagen was characterized by insecurity of the US in the face of its economic and political decline vis-à-vis China; fragmentation of the Group of 77 developing nations negotiating bloc; and weakening of the European Union, formally world leader in climate action. Some of the splinter groups from the Group of 77 developing nations (G-77) and China (now 134 nations) made stronger demands for action by the wealthy nations, including compensation and assistance for the damages done by inevitable destabilization of the climate. The EU was entirely cut out of the group that in the end negotiated the core of the Copenhagen Accord behind closed doors, the US and “BASIC”: ...

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