One of the most interesting features of the Copenhagen summit was President Obama's decision to work with a very small number of nations once it had become clear that all nations gathered by the United Nations were not going to reach agreement.
The UK Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall matter-of-factly noted the President's actions on LibDemVoice blog:
"After yesterday afternoon’s impasse on an international agreement, President Obama took matters into his own hands, struck a deal with China, India, Brazil and South Africa – and promptly left the country."
For a president who has been critical of his predecessor's go-it-aloneism the decision to form this small group is noteworthy. George W Bush had his coalition-of-the-willing in Iraq. Obama's grouping of China, India, Brazil and South Africa will probably get a name in due course too.
A technical name for what Obama engineered has already been proposed by Moisés Naím of Foreign Policy. He suggested that the failure of multilateralism will increasingly leads to minilateralism:
Naím on the failure of multilateralism: "When was the last time you heard that a large number of countries agreed to a major international accord on a pressing issue? Not in more than a decade. The last successful multilateral trade agreement dates back to 1994, when 123 countries gathered to negotiate the creation of the World Trade Organization and agreed on a new set of rules for international trade. Since then, all other attempts to reach a global trade deal have crashed. The same is true with multilateral efforts to curb nuclear proliferation; the last significant international nonproliferation agreement was in 1995, when 185 countries agreed to extend an existing nonproliferation treaty. In the decade and a half since, multilateral initiatives have not only failed, but India, Pakistan, and North Korea have demonstrated their certain status as nuclear powers. On the environment, the Kyoto Protocol, a global deal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, has been ratified by 184 countries since it was adopted in 1997, but the United States, the world's second-largest air polluter after China, has not done so, and many of the signatories have missed their targets."
Naím on the need for minilateralism: "By minilateralism, I mean a smarter, more targeted approach: We should bring to the table the smallest possible number of countries needed to have the largest possible impact on solving a particular problem. Think of this as minilateralism's magic number. The magic number, of course, will vary greatly depending on the problem. Take trade, for example. The Group of Twenty (G-20), which includes both rich and poor countries from six continents, accounts for 85 percent of the world's economy. The members of the G-20 could reach a major trade deal among themselves and make it of even greater significance by allowing any other country to join if it wishes to do so. Presumably, many would. Same with climate change. There, too, the magic number is about 20: The world's 20 top polluters account for 75 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions. The number for nuclear proliferation is 21—enough to include both recognized and de facto nuclear countries, and several other powers who care about them. African poverty? About a dozen, including all the major donor countries and the sub-Saharan countries most in need. As for HIV/AIDS, 19 countries account for nearly two thirds of the world's AIDS-related deaths."