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 4: From Berlin to Kyoto 1995-1997: rising opposition to environmental interests

Christian Downie

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


Following the decision in Berlin in April 1995 to work toward a legally binding instrument, the parties to the UNFCCC met eight times. The third Conference of the Parties (COP 3) in Kyoto, Japan was the culmination of this process. On the 1st of December 1997, COP 3 was officially opened. The President of the COP, Japanese Environment Minister Hiroshi Ohki, called on those present to establish a concrete international framework for protecting the global climate (Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1997: 3). With over 10,000 participants representing 161 states and 278 observer organizations, the Kyoto negotiations were one of the largest international environmental negotiations ever held, and certainly one of the most anticipated (UNFCCC, 1997b). In the three years to Kyoto, the regular rounds of negotiations had made some progress. The most important was the ëGeneva Declarationí at COP 2 in July 1996, in which the US for the first time agreed to accept a legally binding commitment (Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1996). However, as the Kyoto negotiations began there remained a long list of substantive issues still to be resolved. The first set was around what was to be achieved, and by which countries. For developed countries, this centred on the level and design of the greenhouse gas commitment. Developed countries, including the US and the EU, had not agreed on the level of emission targets. In other words, how big the emission cuts would be. Nor had they agreed on the design of a target. In particular, which gases it would include and the baseline from which to measure the target.

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