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International Environmental Policy

Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Aynsley Kellow

The Kyoto Protocol has singularly failed to shape international environmental policy-making in the way that the earlier Montreal protocol did. Whereas Montreal placed reliance on the force of science and moralistic injunctions to save the planet, and successfully determined the international response to climate change, Kyoto has proved significantly more problematic. International Environmental Policy considers why this is the case. The authors contend that such arguments on this occasion proved inadequate to the task, not just because the core issues of the Kyoto process were subject to more powerful and conflicting interests than previously, and the science too uncertain, but because the science and moral arguments themselves remained too weak. They argue that ‘global warming’ is a failing policy construct because it has served to benefit limited but undeclared interests that were sustained by green beliefs rather than robust scientific knowledge.
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Chapter 8: Baptists, Bootleggers and the Kyoto Process

Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Aynsley Kellow


With the release of the TAR of WG I in January 2001, UNEP Secretary-General Klaus Töpfer, former German environment minister, hoped that the ‘science’ in the report would drive the parties together in the negotiations which had stalled in the previous year and were about to resume in Bonn in July 2001. In September, various EU policy-makers, meeting in London in preparation for COP-7 in Marrakech in October 2001, pleaded with a reluctant USA to return to the fold and rejoin this major global effort – in spite or because of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11 – ready for ratification at the Rio +10 conference in Johannesburg in 2002. Yet the many experts also present, while they had lived off the climate threats for over a decade, remained uncertain and gave ratification a 50:50 chance. Some suggested that sufficient parties would never ratify; others expressed doubts unless more concessions were made. There was much concern about likely carbon prices if the USA would not return. The pressure for something to be ratified remained great, in particular from the EU and many developing countries (expecting major new investment and aid streams), and this might result after Marrakech because the negotiations are increasingly adjusting to interests and hence equalizing ‘burdensharing’ or opportunities. As we noted in the previous chapter, Töpfer had stated that he considered the scientific findings of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report should convince governments of the need to ‘take constructive steps’ towards resuming the...

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