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Abstract

This paper presents an inquiry into the state of conversations in international politics on the prospects for the global environmental governance of climate change. The essay reviews the literature on regime theory and its discontents to provide a working understanding of the authors’ conception of global environmental governance for climate change as a regime. The most recent cases of global environmental governance on climate change are discussed, focusing on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as the primary arena for governance-building discussions, leading up to the 2009 Copenhagen Summit. The paper then considers the conversations that posit the failures of Copenhagen and question a current existential crisis facing global environmental governance on climate change. Finally, it is suggested that these failures of the Copenhagen round can be understood within the context of regime theory and its limitations in International Relations. The experience of Copenhagen is representative of continuity with both regime theory and the recent history of global environmental governance on climate change. While the Copenhagen Accord may represent a failure as an international institution on climate change it is perhaps not a failure if interpreted more broadly as part of a governing global climate change regime.

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