The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations

The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations

Strategies and Variables in Prolonged International Negotiations

New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Christian Downie

The Politics of Climate Change Negotiations describes the successes and failures of long international negotiations and most importantly, examines the lessons they hold for the future.

Chapter 3: Toward Berlin 1993-1995: environmental interests and a tentative agreement

Christian Downie

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, international relations


On 28th March 1995, Angela Merkel, the then German Environment Minister, opened the first Conference of the Parties (COP 1) to the UNFCCC. Invoking the spirit of the successful Rio Earth Summit three years earlier, she called on delegates from 170 countries to overcome the great political challenges posed by climate change (Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1995: 2; UNFCCC, 1995a). Most attention turned to the obligations of countries, or in the words of the UNFCCC, the ëadequacy of commitmentsí. The main challenge was to decide whether the commitments of developed countries were ëadequateí to meet the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC to prevent dangerous climate change (UNFCCC, 1992). However, aside from deciding whether this non-binding commitment was sufficient and what additional targets may be necessary, parties also had to address a slew of related issues including: what commitments developing countries should have; the means by which countries could reduce emissions; and financial and technology transfers to developing countries (Rowlands, 1995; Victor and Salt, 1994). Although there was no shortage of contentious matters to engage with at COP 1, reviewing the adequacy of commitments was without doubt the most politically charged task. Under the UNFCCC, developed countries (the so-called Annex I countries) had agreed that they would accept the principle of ëcommon but differentiated responsibilitiesí and make the greater effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, many now felt that this non-binding commitment would not be enough and that negotiations should move towards a legally binding protocol with more specific commitments (Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1995).

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