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December 16, 2019

What the failure in Madrid says about multilateral governance

We never cease to be amazed at the German coalition government’s hypocrisy about climate change. Germany is virtually certain to miss its 2030 climate goals by a wide margin. it will be some 10pp off the agreed CO2 reduction targets by 2030. Yet, Germany supports the EU’s carbon neutral goals for 2050, which is cannot conceivably meet. The recently released climate change performance index has Germany in 23rd place out of 61, and below the EU average. Germany’s rating would have been lower had it not been for its general support for international climate policy. We think it is a classification error. If your policies at home are not geared towards the climate targets, then surely your support for international policies is pure hypocrisy. 

Under Angela Merkel, Germany has become very good at playing these games. But we feel it is important to call a political bluff where we see one. The German media this morning expressed dismay at the de facto failure of the Madrid COP25 climate conference, for failing to agree the rules of a carbon emissions market. They blamed Brazil among other countries for the failure. Brazil is ahead of Germany in the performance ranking. The discussions will now be postponed to the next conference, to be held in Glasgow next year. The Economist has a good summary.

Our specific interest and angle in this debate is the generalised breakdown in multilateral governance, and the mismatch between domestic policies and international finger-wagging. As we saw during the big eurozone governance debates, there is a huge gap between ambitions and reality, and a generalised reluctance by countries to see their own role in a supranational crisis. Angela Merkel recently said that she saw no alternative to multilateral governance for the solution of global problems. We cannot easily identify ready-made alternatives either. But, unlike Merkel, we note that multilateral institutions like the climate change conference are producing tangible benefits. We think that the EU should apply a laser-sharp focus on the 2030 targets, and on the interim target for 2025, rather than agreeing zero net emissions targets for 2050.

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