New Report Urges Evolutionary Approach to Strengthening Global Climate Effort

Press Release
December 6, 2010

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

New Pew Center on Global Climate Change Report Urges “Evolutionary” Approach
to Strengthening the Global Climate Effort
Sees Progress Through Incremental Steps Within & Outside UNFCCC

CANCUN, MEXICO– Governments should affirm the goal of a new legally binding climate change agreement, but focus for now on incremental steps that can deliver stronger action, resources and transparency even in the absence of binding commitments, according to a new report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released today at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico.

The report, The Evolution of Multilateral Regimes: Implications for Climate Change, examines why and how most international regimes evolve gradually, rather than through dramatic step-changes.  It outlines evolutionary pathways within and outside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that can promote stronger near-term action while building a sturdier foundation for a future binding agreement.

 “The big-bang approach isn’t working and it’s time for a more pragmatic paradigm,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  “We need to accept that many major economies aren’t ready for binding commitments and won’t be for some time.  An evolutionary approach lets us move forward now with concrete steps that strengthen the global effort and make a binding agreement more likely down the road.”

The report examines well-established regimes such as the World Trade Organization, the Montreal Protocol, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to identify patterns and dimensions of regime evolution.  It traces the evolution of the climate regime to date, and outlines several lines along which it may evolve in the future.  

Within the UNFCCC, an evolutionary path would prioritize institutional development that would help set the stage for a later legal agreement, the report argues.  Key incremental steps include a stronger support system for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, and a more fully elaborated system for measuring, reporting, and verifying countries’ actions. Advancing these elements could greatly strengthen the UNFCCC’s role as an international forum for action, as opposed to negotiation.

Complementing evolution within the UNFCCC, the report outlines how the broader climate regime may also develop through forums such as the Montreal Protocol, International Maritime Organization, and International Civil Aviation Organization. By helping to diversify the portfolio of international climate change efforts, non-UNFCCC actions would help to reduce the risk of policy failure.  

The report is authored by Daniel Bodansky, professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and Elliot Diringer, the Pew Center’s vice president for international strategies.   The full report is available at  New Pew Center policy briefs on the issues under negotiation in Cancún are also available at

# # #

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.