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About this book

John Vogler examines the international politics of climate change, with a focus on the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC). He considers how the international system treats the problem of climate change, analysing the ways in which this has been defined by the international community and the interests and alignments of state governments.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

Abstract
There are already a great many books about climate change and some very good ones about its international dimensions. Any author venturing into this crowded field needs to provide a justification. Here is mine. It is essentially twofold. First, that the importance of international politics, in the sense of relations between sovereign states rather than the transnational and non-state phenomena that now occupy so much attention in academic studies of the international relations of global environmental change, deserves if not re-instatement then certainly a re-statement. Second, those studies of international environmental cooperation, now commonly described as ‘global governance’, have become rather divorced from the world political context that surrounds them. This might not matter so much for functional negotiations on highly technical aspects of transborder pollution, but it will be significant for the long-running attempt to create a comprehensive and effective international climate regime. From the outset this has been widely, but not universally, recognised as something of critical importance for planetary survival and has been accorded a political status which marks it out from more mundane environmental issue areas. Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been attended at the highest political level by presidents and prime ministers.
John Vogler

2. Framing and Fragmentation

Abstract
Even a cursory glance at international attempts to solve the problem of climate change would suffice to establish two things. First, that, although there is a UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC) and associated Kyoto Protocol, there is also a plethora of other climate-related initiatives and institutions. Second, there is a significant disconnection between the way in which the UNFCCC attempts to mitigate climate change and scientific and even ‘common sense’ ideas of what would really be required to tackle the human forces that drive the enhanced greenhouse effect. This chapter examines the way in which the international climate regime was set up and how ‘framings’ of the problem have been associated with the ‘fragmented’ responses of the international community.
John Vogler

3. The UNFCCC Regime

Abstract
The fragmented nature of interstate regulatory activity on climate change inevitably casts some doubt upon the continued significance of the UN’s Climate Convention. It aspires to play a central coordinating role but is confronted by a growing array of sometimes unrelated, and usually unregulated, transnational and private governance activities (IPCC, 2014a). In the light of these circumstances, the devotion of an entire chapter to the intricacies of the UNFCCC requires some justification. Analysts have disagreed on the centrality of the Convention. For Keohane and Victor (2010) it remains at the core of the climate regime complex, but for Abbott (2012) it is one among many relevant intergovernmental, transnational and civil society entities. Where the UNFCCC sits in relation to present and future climate governance is a vitally important and unresolved question, but is not one posed in this book. Instead the focus is upon international climate politics, where attention remains fixed upon the Convention. This is despite those attempts, discussed in the previous chapter, to avoid, or even subvert, the UNFCCC. Most of these have been orchestrated by developed world governments. But the overwhelming majority of state Parties value the UN climate regime, because it is open to their influence and because they have development needs that may potentially be met within its expanding activities.
John Vogler

4. Interests and Alignments

Abstract
Both realist and liberal interpretations of state behaviour and the possibility of international cooperation are founded upon the notion of interest. In realist conceptions of national interest the survival of the state and its territorial integrity are paramount. Arnold Wolfers (1962) made a key distinction between ‘possession’ and ‘milieu’ goals. The pursuit of both, in his view, could serve the national interest, but, as he pointed out, realists have tended to define the national interest in terms of possession goals, typically involving the defence of national territory and economic assets. Milieu goals, as the name suggests, involve the general improvement of the international context through the non-exclusive provision of universal benefits and public goods. Environmental agreements typically serve milieu goals through the avoidance or reduction of harm. Avoiding dangerous anthropogenic climate change would be a clear example of the achievement of a milieu goal. For realists, possession goals lie at the heart of national interest and must, therefore, take priority over milieu goals, however desirable they may be. The primary possession goal for a state will be maintenance of territorial integrity plus the protection and extension of important economic resources and strategically significant positions. The exact nature of such national interests will vary over time and with respect to the specific situation of particular states, but realists often observe long-term historical continuities that can sometimes allow interests to be portrayed as having an objective character.
John Vogler

5. The Pursuit of Justice

Abstract
The pursuit of justice is inseparable from the politics of climate change. Considering the gross imbalance between the benefits accrued by those high income societies whose emissions triggered the enhanced greenhouse effect and the likely impacts visited upon the poor and vulnerable, who bear little or no responsibility for the problem, it could not be otherwise (Shue, 1995; Elliott, 2006). Climate justice has been defined as the linking of human rights and development ‘to achieve a human centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly’ (Mary Robinson Foundation, 2011).
John Vogler

6. Recognition and Prestige

Abstract
The very earliest writings on international relations confirm the significance of the pursuit of honour and prestige alongside more ‘base’ concerns with relative power and wealth. Thucydides’s description of the Peloponnesian war accounts for the fate of the Melians in their unequal struggle with the Athenians. Simple survival should have counselled surrender, yet honour dictated what turned out to be a suicidal course of action. This theme is taken up in classical realism. In Martin Wight’s (1978, p. 97) discussion of power politics ‘honour is the halo around interests, prestige is the halo around power’. Hans Morgenthau (1967, p. 69), doyen of realist theorists, identified the contest for prestige as one of three ‘basic manifestations’ of the struggle for power in international relations and outlined the prestige policies that statesmen may pursue. The other two are protection of the status quo or imperialism — where pursuit of prestige represents one of the instrumentalities through which they may be achieved.
John Vogler

7. Structural Change and Climate Politics

Abstract
During the life of the climate regime structural change in the international political system has reflected underlying shifts in the pattern and distribution of economic growth and associated emissions of GHGs. The period 1989–91 has pivotal significance. The ending of the Cold War re-ordered the international political structure and accelerated the processes of economic globalisation, as previously closed economies became enmeshed in a worldwide, market-based system of finance and production. This, in turn, had profound implications for the power structure. In 1992 the United States was the sole remaining superpower, in what was then described as its ‘unipolar’ moment. In economic scale it was matched only by the EU. In the trade regime and elsewhere it was still possible to portray economic diplomacy in terms of a directorate of two, or perhaps four, advanced industrialised powers. Within a decade, however, China had been admitted to the WTO and, profiting from the decision of many developed world firms to re-locate their production processes to take advantage of its low wage rates, achieved spectacular rates of economic growth, averaging over 9 per cent per annum. Other ‘emergent economies’ also exhibited high growth rates, leading to perceptions of a new multipolar structure, or even a potential con-dominion of the United States and China (the G2). The events of the 2009 Copenhagen COP were an emblematic demonstration of reordered power relationships.
John Vogler

8. Conclusion

Abstract
Nadrev Saño, head of the Philippines delegation, whose country had witnessed successive climate change-driven ‘natural’ disasters in 2012 and 2013, called the UNFCCC process an ‘annual carbon-intensive gathering of useless frequent flyers’. He was announcing his protest fast for the duration of the 2013 Warsaw COP. Later, several hundred NGO representatives staged a walkout in order to register their frustration with its lack of progress (ENB, 2013 p. 30). Such views of the UNFCCC regime are widely shared. Over the years it has become complex and highly institutionalised — even, perhaps, a site of ritualised behaviour.
John Vogler

Backmatter

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