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A Reprieve for Global Governance

As the deal struck at COP24 in Katowice shows, world leaders can address myriad shared challenges when they embrace compromise and cooperation. But they will also require something more: new ideas about how global governance should be organized.

MADRID – The last-minute deal struck at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, offers a glimmer of hope for the future not just of climate action, but also of global governance. After a year in which leaders reverted time and again to the failed policies of the past to address shared challenges, COP24 showed that there might still be room for innovative instruments for responding to common threats. To navigate the current era of global turbulence, the world will need forward-facing ideas. Looking backward will get the international community nowhere.

There is, however, a general lack of political will to take bold action, and domestic upheaval, such as the “Yellow Vest” protests in France, reinforces this reluctance. At the same time, today’s leaders lack ideas. Amid shifting global power dynamics, diminished political legitimacy, and disruptive technological change, it is more difficult than ever to devise promising solutions. Unless and until that changes, we will not escape our current cycle of dysfunction and insecurity.

A couple of years ago, the world seemed to be stepping up to the challenge with innovative governance models in a range of areas that rested heavily on soft or non-binding mechanisms, rather than the strict rules of the past. Some of these models incorporated non-state actors. All of them are now on life support, replaced by traditional policy measures that have proven ineffective in the past.