A Future for International Climate Politics

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A discussion paper by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Lili Fuhr and Barbara Unmüßig


Two years after the Copenhagen summit, the real world is moving away from a safe and equitable climate future faster than ever. Political leaders are busy fighting the global financial crisis. But the lack of public interest and disengagement of relevant actors in the UN climate negotiations (UNFCCC) has – in light of the rise of the G-20 as the new and powerful global governance forum – the potential to conceal what is really at stake. If the G-20 is “the premier forum for international economic development” and we are serious about stopping climate change, we have to ensure that G-20 politics do not undermine our objectives for the climate, the environment, poverty eradica-tion, and global justice.


Political engagement in this changing climate requires entirely new thinking about strategies and alliances that, in our view, should build on the following considerations:

  • There is no alternative to a legally binding agreement if we are serious about preventing dangerous climate change.
  • The UNFCCC needs to be safeguarded as the central forum for negotiating climate politics; at the same time, we need to shift our focus to those fora and political agendas that are undermining serious climate efforts, specifically the G-20.
  • At the same time, policies for national energy, economics, and development have to provide the groundwork for a global shift toward a safe climate future. International deadlock is no excuse for national inaction.
  • Climate politics require new resource politics at the local, national, and international levels and need to move beyond a purely carbon perspective.

The role of civil society in international climate politics today should focus on:

  • rebuilding coalitions and developing a clear division of labor inside and outside of the UNFCCC, as well as across different thematic “silos” while taking into account changing geopolitics and global governance; 
  • refocusing advocacy efforts on the real spoilers and vested interests on the local, regional, and global levels; and, 
  • mobilizing global and local movements to reclaim the commons: the atmosphere, natural resources such as land, forests, biodiversity, and water, but also knowledge and public spaces.
Product details
Date of Publication
November 2011
Number of Pages
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Language of publication