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PS25
ostrom1_Romolo Tavani_Getty images_climate Romolo Tavani/Getty Images

Green from the Grassroots

To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS is republishing a selection of commentaries written since 1994. In the following commentary, Elinor Ostrom argued that diverse policies at the city, subnational, national, and international levels are more likely to rein in climate change than are inflexible global agreements.

BLOOMINGTON – Much is riding on the United Nations Rio+20 summit. Many are billing it as Plan A for Planet Earth and want leaders bound to a single international agreement to protect our life-support system and prevent a global humanitarian crisis.

But while inaction in Rio would be disastrous, a single international agreement would be a grave mistake. We cannot rely on singular global policies to solve the problem of managing our common resources: the oceans, atmosphere, forests, waterways, and rich diversity of life that combine to create the right conditions for life, including seven billion humans, to thrive.

We have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society. No one knows for sure what will work, so it is important to build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.

25 years of the World's Opinion Page

Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.

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Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.

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  1. bildt71_HOW HWEE YOUNGAFP via Getty Images_vonderleyenchinaarmy How Hwee Young/AFP via Getty Images

    Which Way for Europe on China?

    Carl Bildt

    Under its new leadership, the European Union has promised to step up its engagement on the world stage to ensure that it does not become a pawn in an escalating Sino-American great-power rivalry. To succeed, it will have to strike a careful balance between economic priorities and its own security.

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  2. wei22_FABRICE COFFRINIAFP via Getty Images_WTOredlight Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

    How to Revive the WTO

    Shang-Jin Wei & Xinding Yu

    The World Trade Organization’s appellate body is under threat not from China, but from the United States, which is blocking the appointment of new judges to the panel. Reviving the WTO will require changes to the organization's rules – but killing its dispute-settlement system is not the solution.

    1