The role of the G20 in governing the climate change regime

  • Joy Aeree Kim
  • Suh-Yong Chung
Original Paper


A wide array of institutions governing climate change has proliferated over the past years, influencing the rule-makings of the regime. One of them is the G20. When G20 leaders around the world convened in London to restore global economies, they stressed the importance of a ‘resilient, sustainable, and green recovery’ and reaffirmed their commitments to address climate change. This was followed by their agreement on phasing out inefficient fossil fuel energy subsidies over the medium term in Pittsburgh. The ‘coexistence of narrow regimes in the same issue-area’ could be described as ‘regime complexes’, which enable countries to adapt more readily, particularly when adaptation requires complex changes in norms and behavior. Given that responses to climate change would require changes in the domestic politics of different countries at different levels, loosely integrated institutions of regime complexes could be more advantageous for countries to adapt and in engaging with developing countries. This paper demonstrates that the G20’s highly informal institutional setup as well as its flexible cooperation tools could enable its members to customize their policies and better engage with third-party countries. In addition, the G20 group could collectively influence other key countries to reach an agreement on some of the key climate change–related issues, thereby facilitating the United Nations process of climate change.


Climate change Governance G20 Environmental governance Global governance 



Asia–Pacific Partnership on clean development and climate


European Union


Gross Domestic Product


Global Environment Facility


Green House Gases


Group of 7


Group of 8


Group of 20


International Energy Agency


Liquid Petroleum Gases


Major Economies Forum on energy and climate


Major Economies Meeting on energy security and climate change


Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development


Prototype Carbon Fund


Sustainable Energy Free Trade Areas


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


World Economic Forum


World Trade Organisation



Authors would like to thank the Korea University for its support. This paper is partially supported by the Korea University Research Grant.


  1. Aldagate Group. (2012). A tale of two cities: From Durban to Rio. January 26, 2012.Google Scholar
  2. Alter, K., & Meunier, S. (2009). The politics of international regime complexity. Symposium. Perspectives on Politics, 7(1), 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. (2006). Executive summary-task force action plans.
  4. Barbier, E. B. (2009). Rethinking the economic recovery: A global green new deal. Report prepared for the Economics and Trade Branch, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, UNEP, Geneva, April.
  5. Barbier, E. B. (2010a). Global governance: The G20 and a global green new deal. Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, 4, 2010–2012.
  6. Barbier, E. B. (2010b). A global green recovery, the G20 and international STI cooperation in clean energy. STI Policy Review, 1(3), 1–15.Google Scholar
  7. Biermann, F., Pattberg, P., & van Asselt, H. (2009). The fragmentation of global governance architectures: A framework for analysis. Global Environmental Politics, 9(4), 14–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Braithwaite, J., & Drahos, P. (2000). Global business regulation. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Buchanan, A., & Keohane, R. (2006). The legitimacy of global governance institutions. Ethics and International Affairs, 20(4), 405–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Busch, M. L. (2007). Overlapping institutions, forum shopping and dispute settlement in international trade. International Organisation, 61(4), 735–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Canada. (1999). New G20 forum: Backgrounder, Canada, Department of Finance. Google Scholar
  12. E3G (Change Agents for Sustainable Development). (2010). Building the 2°C coalition: European climate diplomacy after Copenhagen. E3G discussion paper 1. E3G: London.Google Scholar
  13. Franck, T. (1990). The power of legitimacy among nations. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. G20 Climate Finance Experts Group. (2010). Providing public revenue to address global climate change. Pre-decisional and for official use confidential author’s draft.Google Scholar
  15. G-20 Submission. (2010). Report to leaders on the G20 commitment to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. G-20 Toronto Summit, Canada, 26–27 June 2010.
  16. Keohane, R. (1984). After hegemony: Cooperation and discord in the world political economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Keohane, R., & Victor, D. V. (2010). The regime complex for climate change. Harvard project on international climate agreements, discussion paper 10–33. Harvard Kennedy School.Google Scholar
  18. Kirton, J. (2010). The G20 Summit as an international negotiation process: Shaping the systemic Summit club for Toronto and Seoul. In Paper presented at an international conference on ‘G20 Seoul Summit: From crisis to cooperation’ hosted by the Korean Association of Negotiation Studies, Seoul, Republic of Korea, May 19–20, 2010.Google Scholar
  19. London Summit Leaders’ Statement. (2009).
  20. Pew Centre Global Climate Change. (2010). Sixteenth session of the conference of the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change and sixth session of the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol.…/cancun-climate-conference-cop16-summary.pdf.
  21. St. Andrews Meeting’s Communiqué. (2009).
  22. Seoul G20 Business Summit Joint Statement by Participating Companies. (2010).
  23. Seoul G20 Business Summit: Findings and Recommendations from Participants. (2010).
  24. Smith, G., & Heinbecker, P. (2010). The G20 and climate change: The quintessential global governance issue. West Waterlook: Centre pour l’innovation dans la gouvernance internationale.Google Scholar
  25. Suominen, K. (2009). Now that it’s over, next challenges for the G20. Vox: Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists, 3 Oct 2009.
  26. The Climate Institute. (2010). The Cancun Agreement: A preliminary assessment. Policy brief.
  27. Torney, D., & Greup, A. (2010). Editorial introduction: New directions in climate change policies. St. Antony’s International Review, 5(2), 5–15.Google Scholar
  28. US Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programmes. (2010). G20 Summit statement on global energy, climate change challenges; G20 membersscaling updomestic efforts to reduce emissions. The White House Office of the Press Secretary for Immediate Release.
  29. WBGU. (2010). Climate policy post-Copenhagen: A three-level strategy for success. Policy paper. Berlin: WBGU.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economics and Trade Branch, Division of Technology, Industry and EconomicsUNEPParisFrance
  2. 2.Division of International StudiesKorea UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations