Making climate look like trade? - Questions on incentives, flexibility and credibility - A policy brief by Centre for Policy Research

The policy brief published by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR),  India addresses the debates around climate change that took place before and after the Copenhagen Climate Conference (2009) that raised a number of questions regarding the architecture of the global climate regime.

These discussions argued that the approach towards the global climate regime had to move away from the top down 'targets' and 'timetables' approach towards a more flexible bottom up approach that allowed countries to promise actions that were consistent with their domestic policies and economic priorities. The discussions also compared the global climate regime to the global trade regime.

The author draws parallels between the characteristics of the global trade regime and the global climate regime and argues that in theory, such a route could be politically expedient by offering different incentives to sign on, by limiting the scope of agreements and making them flexible, and by increasing the credibility of commitments with robust monitoring. 

The author argues that in practice however, this approach would require addressing several unresolved dilemmas such as making mercantilism work where direct reciprocal concessions are difficult; designing flexible agreements that balance openness and pressure, positive versus negative incentives and build trust through unilateral actions; and increasing resources for better reporting and greater participation in monitoring.