International cooperation on climate change has floundered. With mutual recrimination between rich and poor countries, the zero-sum arithmetic of a shrinking global carbon budget, and shifting economic and bargaining power from old CO2 emitters to new—what Aaditya Mattoo and Arvind Subramanian call the “narrative,” “adding up,” and “new world” problems—the wonder is not the current impasse but belief that progress might be possible at all.
Each of these problems must be addressed in a radically different way. First, the old narrative of recrimination must give way to a narrative based on recognition of common interests. Second, leaders must shift the focus away from cutting emissions to generating technology. Third, the old “cash-for-cuts” approach must be abandoned for one that requires contributions from all countries calibrated in magnitude and form to the countries current level of development and future prospects.