In a new series of articles for Youth Policy Labs, regular contributor Luke Kemp and his colleague Tom Swann look at the viability of the UNFramework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), potential alternative arenas for agreement and action on climate change, and potential options for reforming the UNFCCC to enable it to achieve its aims. In this preface, Luke introduces the series and explains why the UNFCCC has become a zombie.  


Credit: EekltsLily
Credit: EekltsLily

Professor and long-time climate commentator David Victor once described the current negotiations on trade as a “legal zombie that neither succeeds nor dies”.

There is now no doubt that the current UN negotiations too have become a legal zombie.  They shamble forward, narrowly averting collapses and achieving very little, but refusing to die nonetheless.  Is this the sign of resilience or of a pointless endeavour?  Should we persist with the UNFCCC or find another way to create global action?

This series will attempt to answer these questions and in doing so uncover both the weaknesses of the existing process and the benefits and limitations of the alternatives.  First, we will examine the flaws and potential of the UNFCCC before looking at other options for action on climate change, including smaller, more targeted negotiations like the G20 and regional cooperation. We will then put forward some potential options for reforming the UNFCCC to allow for the international progress that we so desperately need.

Hope can be deceptive and it is foolish to place hope in the UNFCCC as it currently stands.  It has been flawed from birth and without change is not capable of creating an effective international climate deal.  Unfortunately most of the alternatives can do little better.  Yet hope in international action need not be abandoned for there are still ways forward.

Read Part I: Our Flawed Fortune: Should we persist with the UN Climate Negotiations?

Please check back to read the other articles in this series as they are published.

Featured Image Credit: Light Brigading via Compfight cc

Written by Luke Kemp & Tom Swann

Tom Swann is a researcher at the Australia Institute and a student in the Master of Climate Change program. His current climate research focuses on the politics of fossil fuel financing and divestment. He is a lead organiser in the Fossil Free ANU campaign. Luke is a PhD candidate in environmental governance at the Australian National University. He has a particular interest in Intergenerational Equity having worked with both the Major Group of Children and Youth and the youth constituency of the UNFCCC as the coordinator of the Intergenerational Equity Working Group.