International cooperation on climate change mitigation: The role of climate clubs

Rafael Leal-Arcas, Andrew Filis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We know the science of climate change; we know the economics of climate change; we also know the law of climate change. However, we do not know how coun-tries may come together to cooperate on climate-change mitigation. One way of doing so successfully is by putting together the climate regime with the international trading system via the creation of climate clubs, namely the coalition of the willing. This article aims to explain that, by building climate clubs and making use of the international trading system, we can reach a better future for all. Through the lens of international trade, this article explores how smal-ler coalitions (so-called climate clubs) – unilateral, bilateral, plurilateral, rather than multilateral regimes – of states/non-state actors can catalyse or influence action on climate change. The premise of this article is that global action on climate change has not been effectively implemented, as it relies on consensus from too many actors. Thus, it proposes how international trade mechanisms may be re-oriented to address climate change. The article challenges the assumptions about the existing multilateral-agreement regime, and argues that reducing depen-dence on these multilateral mechanisms may influence greater attainment of sustainability goals (more flex-ible, not reliant on difficult-to-gain consensus among many actors). The article, therefore, examines the future of international regimes and how they may contribute to climate-change mitigation. Its forward-looking orientation – how international trade can leverage climate-change mitigation – is an important and novel contribution in examining how environmental concerns can be included into international regimes. What changes will look like and how change is attained (through policy, regulations, law, agree-ments, incentives) may contribute to developing glo-bal-level institutional solutions for how climate-change mitigation is framed in international regimes and discourses. The article also addresses emerging academic research into climate clubs in international climate-change mitigation institutions/regimes. The article contributes to growing discourses in global climate governance for how these arrangements and agreements should look/be designed to create real action on climate-change mitigation. Therefore, it expands on existing scholarship through taking a specific lens (international trade) and how it may contribute to mitigating climate change through coalitions (climate clubs) beyond how the existing international regime is configured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-218
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Energy and Environmental Law Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • Accountability
  • Climate clubs
  • International trade
  • Legitimacy
  • Minilateralism
  • Multilateralism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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