FFU-Report 01-2014: Framework for the Future: The Possibility of Majority Voting within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Kemp, Luke – 2014
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is struggling in its attempts to address the threat of anthropogenic climate change and create an effective post-Kyoto international climate agreement. One substantial part of the problem is consensus decision making within the Convention, which effectively gives every party a veto over the process. Majority voting is one potential alternative which is already being discussed within the UNFCCC. A comparative analysis of consensus and majority voting suggests that majority voting is superior in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness since it is a better consensus-builder, a speedier decision making process and provides opportunities for a semi-global approach to international climate policy. The objective in this paper is to investigate how majority voting could be implemented in the UNFCCC and to consider politically feasible and effective approaches to voting arrangements for the Convention. Implementing majority voting in the Convention faces legal, political and institutional obstacles. While it has growing support from some states, others remain staunchly opposed, with concerns over voting on financial matters being particularly sensitive. A type of Layered Majority Voting with larger majorities for financial and substantial matters is considered to be the optimal approach in balancing political feasibility and effectiveness. A weighted voting system differentiated on the basis of mitigation commitments, vulnerability and population (Common but Differentiated Voting) is proposed as an ideal approach. Despite these possibilities a change in decision making will likely require a crisis to catalyse the necessary political will and break the current path dependency that has been built around consensus.